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A Tough Climb: Nan Little’s Parkinson’s Journey

coming apart

Many would find the book title “If I Can Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Why Can’t I Brush My Teeth?” intriguing. Few people, however, would understand its meaning.                                  

Nan Little, author of the aforementioned book, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 62. Since then, writes Pamela Quinn, an interviewer for “PD Outliers,” Nan “has become well known around the Parkinson’s community for her bold expeditions across the world.”

A boxing buddy at Rock Steady gave me the book, but I was somewhat reticent about reading of Nan’s journeys around the world. I’d heard her speak at a conference a few years back. My impression of her talk was that she was saying “Look what I’ve done” rather than “Look at what exercising has done for me.” (In hindsight, it would be fair to say that there had been some envy on my part.)

According to Nan, exercising — mainly intense cycling — saved her life. And cycling across Iowa led her to the base and ultimately all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro. I wasn’t too many pages into the book before I overcame my first impression of her experiences, and by the end of Chapter 1, I was a fan.

Nan writes with honesty and transparency, sharing her reaction to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008 and relating how she became involved in cycling with the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), a noncompetitive bicycle ride organized by the Des Moines Register. It was through RAGBRAI that she became involved with the Pedaling for Parkinson’s program, founded by Dr. Jay Alberts, a neuroscientist at the Cleveland Clinic, and Cathy Frazier, a woman living with Parkinson’s disease.

It was also because of RAGBRAI that Nan and her husband were asked to join a climb up Kilimanjaro in 2011. That climb, Nan says, was the hardest thing she had ever done, and it took a tremendous toll. However, she didn’t let that stop her feisty spirit, and she has since trekked to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal and ridden in RAGBRAI 2012! 

Of her cycling and climbing experiences, Nan states: “The profound joy of dipping my bike wheel in the Mississippi, ascending Kilimanjaro and standing among fluttering prayer flags high in Nepal, gains greater meaning when people tell me my efforts inspire them to find strength to cycle, to exercise or to walk around the block. I do not believe that people can do anything they set their minds to. We have physical, mental and fiscal limitations. Nonetheless, it’s likely that we can be in control of our lives and our bodies more than we expect.”

Following are some of my favorite quotes from Nan’s book. I hope not only that they inspire you to read her book on an upcoming, blustery autumn day, but that they also give you hope.

  • “We can give PD a specific place in our world, but [we mustn’t give it] control over our lives.”
  • “I’m not going to tell you that everything’s going to be alright. I am going to tell you that [you have] grit.”
  • “People with neurodegenerative diseases are capable of far more than they expect.”
  • “The more you focus on pain the more debilitated and closed in you become.”
  • “We can’t control what happens to us but we can control our attitudes or how we respond.”

And my favorite:

  • “Forget PD — Go fly-fishing!”

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Senior Helpers Sending 6 Rock Steady Boxing Coaches from North Carolina to Group’s Conference

Rock Steady Boxing conference

Aware that non-contact boxing routines can improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients, Senior Helpers is sending six Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) coaches to the organization’s national conference.

Senior Helpers, a leading nationwide provider of at-home care, will sponsor the Wilmington, North Carolina, coaches in attending the second annual Rock Steady Boxing Coaches Conference to be held Sept. 4–6 in Phoenix.

At the conference, Rock Steady-certified coaches from around the world will learn the latest in techniques and practices. The non-profit Rock Steady Boxing uses a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum to help slow Parkinson’s progression and enable patients to better manage disease symptoms.

“As a care-based company, we understand firsthand how important it is to stay current with the skills and techniques that help our clients,” Mari Baxter, senior vice president of operations for Senior Helpers, said a press release.

“Rock Steady Boxing has been one of our most valued partners the past several years and the organization’s commitment to helping improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients is an exemplary example of humanitarianism,” Baxter added. “It’s our honor to help these coaches advance their skillsets and enhance their instruction.”

In general, research shows that exercise helps Parkinson’s patients maintain the abilities needed for a degree of independence in everyday life. In particular, exercises that stress gross motor movement, core strength, balance, and rhythm can positively affect patients’ range of motion, gait, posture, and flexibility.

The Senior Helpers-sponsored coaches are Mike Wilson, co-founder of Rock Steady Boxing of Wilmington and a former Jiu-Jitsu instructor; martial artist Val Wilson, who co-founded Rock Steady Boxing of Wilmington; Christy Gillenwater, a fitness studio owner who is certified as both a personal trainer and medical fitness specialist; multi-sport athlete Ryan Gillespie, a health and wellness veteran; Sheryl Johnson, a former police officer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013; and Jim Cosper, a U.S. Navy veteran and Parkinson’s patient.

“Parkinson’s disease hits close to home for so many people, myself included,” Baxter said. “My husband Bill was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has found Rock Steady to be an immense help in his overall wellbeing and day-to-day health. He was so resistant after his diagnosis, but now he’s their biggest convert.”

Founded in 2006 as the nation’s first boxing program of its kind, RSB is specifically designed to help patients at all stages of Parkinson’s. Visit this site to find a local class.

With more than 300 franchised businesses, Senior Helpers was founded in 2001 to help senior citizens with age-related illnesses and mobility challenges remain in their home.

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Useful Fitness and Informational Resources for Parkinson’s Patients

internet resources

More than 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease around the world. While this number seems shocking, it also means that we have a lot of people fighting for change, relief, a cure, or a solution to some of the difficulties that Parkinson’s yields. Research and interest in Parkinson’s are making connections easier, and more and more gyms are offering Parkinson’s fitness programs. Whether you’re looking for fitness resources, a good book or blog, or educational platforms, the following internet links might offer some inspiration.

Fitness resources

Exercise is healthy for everyone, but there’s evidence that it helps Parkinson’s patients manage certain symptoms of the disease. Parkinson’s specific exercise classes are popping up all across the country. How do you find a group that fits your interests? What if you don’t have access to a Rock Steady Boxing location? Or what if boxing isn’t the right fit for you?

Adaptive Training Foundation

The Adaptive Training Foundation aims to empower its participants through high-intensity athletics and community building. Its programs — Redefine, Reignite, Redeploy — help adaptive athletes push themselves to new levels of fitness, compete successfully, and challenge themselves physically. The facility is located in Texas.

PD Movement Lab (New York)

Pamela Quinn opened the first PD Movement Lab in 2006 to explore Parkinson’s through dance. A patient herself, Quinn uses her background in dance to experiment with a variety of techniques in order to help her students find solutions to mobility issues. PD Movement Lab is a New York company with branches in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but the organization is expanding its online presence to make dance accessible to anyone with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s Cycling Coach

There’s evidence that pedaling really fast can help reduce Parkinson’s symptoms by up to 35 percent. The people at Parkinson’s Cycling Coach aim to train people to lead indoor cycling classes, which will help patients benefit year-round. Cycling can be done at home or with a group, indoors or outdoors. And if you’re looking for a goal, Pedaling 4 Parkinson’s is an annual race that takes place in Colorado. The proceeds are donated entirely to Parkinson’s research. Having an event to train for might give you a bit of inspiration.

Informational resources

As Parkinson’s progresses, it becomes more difficult to leave the house. Physical developments make transportation tricky, and sometimes you just don’t want to be seen struggling. Resources are out there. Whether you’re seeking information or a way to exercise on your own, the internet is full of incredible platforms.

American Parkinson Disease Association

The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) is a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting Parkinson’s by way of fundraising, education, and public elevation. ADPA provides current news that’s related to developments in the disease and offers a location finder to help you get in touch with Parkinson’s resources near you. Its website includes information that’s tailored to specialized communities, like veterans, first responders, bilingual patients, and early-onset patients (those diagnosed before the age of 50).

Stanford Medicine

Standford Medicine, in partnership with APDA, has an incredible community outreach webpage. It includes information on local support groups and exercise classes, and offers resources like fact sheets, books, exercise videos, and live-streaming fitness classes for a wider internet audience. The “Living with PD” category touches on topics like the effect of Parkinson’s on driving ability and shares the stories of individuals’ experiences with deep brain stimulation surgery. This is a terrific resource for those who want credible information about Parkinson’s.

The right stuff

Navigating change can easily become overwhelming, and everyone’s experience with the progression of Parkinson’s is different. This can make it hard to find resources that are relevant to your situation. With a click of the mouse, however, you can access a range of information sources and fitness programs that might help you manage your disease. These websites are good places to start.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Exercising with Parkinson’s Disease: Try It and See the Benefits

panic attacks

I began taking Rock Steady Boxing classes about nine months ago. The exercise program is tailored for those with Parkinson’s disease, and if you’re like me, you’ve dragged your feet and refused to go for any number of reasons or excuses. Maybe there isn’t a class near you. Or perhaps you feel too tired and don’t think you’ll have enough energy to do what’s required. Maybe money or time is the issue.

Do me a favor. 

Just consider it

I was reluctant to go. Mostly because I’m an introvert — yes, I really am. I have to push myself to get out there. And so I did. I forced myself to check it out almost nine months ago, and I am still going. 

I recently read a discussion in a Parkinson’s Facebook group I belong to. Someone asked what decision others had made in their lives since their diagnosis that had made the most positive difference to their health. I was surprised by the number of answers about exercise. It seems logical to me now, but before attending boxing classes, I may have had a different response, such as increasing my chocolate intake.

We are meant to be active

A 2018 study looked at the reduction of movement in neurological diseases. Commenting on the research, one of its authors, Dr. Raffaella Adami, told the journal Frontiers that we are meant to “walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things.”

According to the article, “Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells — some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.”

When I joined my boxing class, I was surprised by the number and variety of exercises we had to do. I had figured that activities would be specifically related to boxing. We spend the first half of the class on exercises such as jumping jacks, squats, leg raises, jump-rope, stair steps, balance beam, ladder steps, box steps, pushups, lunges, planks, and various activities using punching bags, jelly bags, and speed bags. Then we practice punches with our coaches. We close out our session with a game or competition — my favorite part.

Many participants in the Facebook group discussion agreed that their decision to join a Rock Steady Boxing class had been beneficial. The next two most popular activities were walking and yoga. I don’t think that it matters which form of exercise you choose as long as you are doing something.

See the benefits

May I encourage you to start an exercise routine if you haven’t already. You’ll soon realize that you can do more than you could before, and you may find that your overall well-being has improved.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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The Race of My Life

Slow Is the New Fast

Participate or compete?

Prior to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I used to participate in 5K walks and duathlons for fun. Now, I am competing in the race of my life, which is fighting back against the debilitating effects and progression of Parkinson’s. Some days, I stagger and fall, and other days, I am victorious. Tomorrow is always another day.

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” —Mary Anne Radmacher

Completing a 5K trail run in 2007. (Photo by XTERRA Planet)

The above photo was taken in 2007, the year I battled and survived tonsil cancer. I never thought I would be able to be pain-free again, let alone complete a 5K trail run in extreme heat. In 2015, I survived the suicide of my soul mate, Steve. We had been together for over 33 years, and he helped me through my cancer battle. Now it is just me, battling Parkinson’s on my own.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

I am living proof of that.

Complacent? Not!

My mantra (which I am not always good at living up to) is “I am better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow.” There is no rest for the weary. Those of us with Parkinson’s cannot let our guard down or allow ourselves to become complacent. Parkinson’s is a formidable adversary, and we cannot leave any stone unturned as we strive for our quality of life. When I retired from my corporate job of 37 years, I had planned to also retire somewhat from my rigorous daily exercise routines. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s within five years of my retirement.

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men [often go awry].” —Robert Burns

What is in my arsenal?

My best weapons for battling this disease are support groups, attitude, and movement. My Rock Steady Boxing classes give me a lot of bang for the buck. I get the support and camaraderie of others who have Parkinson’s, plus I get great exercise. Trying to project a more positive attitude has also helped me tremendously. There is no question in my mind that Parkinson’s has stolen my motivation; however, I can still draw on my muscle memory and discipline to get me moving every day. I developed these qualities over the years as a dancer and cyclist.

Who is my inspiration?

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone with Parkinson’s who has never exercised in their life to start an exercise program. Chances are, they will also suffer from fatigue, apathy, and lack of motivation, which makes the prospect of having to exercise every day that much more daunting.

These are the people who inspire me to continue on and compete in the race of my life.

“Live to inspire, and one day people will say, because of you, I didn’t give up.” —Unknown

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Are You the Light in Someone’s Darkness?

Traveling through Parkinson's

I attend my boxing class twice a week. Regardless of whether she is having a good or not-so-good day, Kathy, another woman in my class, will be smiling. Not only will she be smiling, but she will be giving away words of encouragement. I often hear her thanking one of the coaches or the occasional volunteers for something they have done — not for her, necessarily, but for the entire class, like showing up for us.

It’s not that the rest of us aren’t thankful or don’t appreciate what is done for us, but Kathy goes a step further and thanks them — every time. She is illuminating the journey to being found.

What do I mean by that?

Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel introduced its fifth issue, titled “Lost,” by saying, “The word lost originates from the Old English losian, meaning to perish. While this collection features many narratives of loss, it also illuminates the journey to being found.”

Having Parkinson’s disease can feel like being lost. It can sometimes feel as if you are all alone, wandering by yourself on a journey of endless twists and turns, unable to see what is coming around the next bend. You feel like you are slowly fading from who you once were into someone you no longer recognize.

You may have once been calm, while now you are anxious. At one time, you may have been a great orator, whereas now you fret over holding a simple conversation with a friend. You may have won medals for being the fastest runner on your college track team, but now you don’t dare go anywhere without your cane to stabilize you.

It’s hard to come to terms with something like Parkinson’s disease, and it’s easy to feel lost and misplaced. To feel like you’re living someone else’s life and not the one you thought you’d be living. It’s hard to go around greeting people cheerfully while you’re dealing with a disease you’d rather not have. 

Let’s just say it, shall we? Let’s just be honest. Sometimes, we don’t just feel lost, we feel as if we are perishing faster than we’d hoped and in a manner we never dreamed of. But there were people who found us slumped over alongside the path we have found ourselves on with this disease. They sat down beside us, told us they’ve “been there, too,” and helped us get back up. They brought light to our dark world and showed us we can smile and be thankful once again.

Is there someone who is a light in your life? Someone who illuminated your path while you felt lost and alone? Pay it forward. Be a Kathy, a light in their darkness.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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As My Losses from Parkinson’s Accelerate, It’s Time to Fight Back

fight

Don’t forget you’re human. It’s OK to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where you are headed.” —Unknown

I tend to have meltdowns more frequently these days.

Why is this happening?

My losses from this disease seem to be accelerating. Following are some examples:

  • In boxing class, I sometimes struggle with the punching choreography and can’t seem to coordinate my hands to do the actions required.
  • When reaching to place items on a high shelf, I lose my balance and fall backward.
  • My speed bag workouts are slowing down, and I lose my rhythm more often.
  • I am clumsier and tend to knock things over.
  • Typing on a computer keyboard is an exercise in futility. Sometimes my finger holds pressure on a key too much, and at other times, not enough. I can’t tell anymore.

I suspect that you can relate to my experiences only if you also have Parkinson’s disease (PD). While these setbacks may seem inconsequential, when they occur with increased frequency, it becomes frightening and overwhelming.

I must be mindful of what I do now more than ever. Falling and injuring myself a few weeks ago shocked me to the reality and seriousness of this disease. I find myself cursing at PD and yelling expletives at the top of my lungs in my house when my body fails me. My pet bunny doesn’t know what to make of this. I think the poor guy thinks I am yelling at him.

When my body does not move the way my mind is telling it to, my frustration levels accelerate. This may also be a harbinger of things to come.

Fighting back. (Photo by Michelle Del Giorno)

Running on empty

Some research indicates that over 50 percent (and as much as 60-70 percent) of dopamine-producing neurons are dead by the time Parkinson’s symptoms first appear. I have no doubt that the disease is aging me before my time. A 90-year-old friend is starting to experience symptoms that are due to aging — the same signs that I have at age 66 because of PD.

My neurologist has suggested that sometimes I need to take a step back, refocus, and not be too hard on myself. He knows me well.

I must fight back — and not give in!

At any given moment, you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end.” Christine Mason Miller

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Rock Steady Boxing Saved Me from the Great Lakes

boxing

I will never again underestimate the strength of a McDonald’s paper cup — or my Rock Steady Boxing class.

The other day, I took my grandson to his favorite playground: McDonald’s. A friend was meeting us there with her grandson. By the time she arrived, the place was packed. There was only one spot available with a good view of the playing area: a table near the back windows that was covered with a gigantic puddle of sticky soda.

Someone had a massive spill and didn’t bother to report it. By the time we got there, it had formed a smaller version of the Great Lakes. Soda was all over and spilling onto the floor, creating a pool at least 2 feet wide by 5 feet long.

With a root beer in my right hand and a box of apple juice in the other, I turned to set the drinks on the table and lost my footing. I was facing the windows when my feet suddenly began sliding into the middle of the Great Lakes. I couldn’t grab onto anything to steady myself and slammed my shoulder into the top of the chair. In an attempt to stop sliding, I banged the root beer cup onto the window ledge, and with all of the strength I could muster I pushed my weight against it and tried to pull myself up. 

It sounds crazy, but that large paper cup filled with root beer gave me the leverage I needed to get upright.

The entire time I was pushing against that cup, I was wondering when it would give way and leave me crashing to the floor. But then I realized my left arm and hand pushing against the windowsill were holding me up.

Six months ago, I couldn’t have held myself up like that.

I would have tumbled to the floor, ended up in the middle of the Great Lakes, and needed to be rescued from drowning in my embarrassment. But the muscles in my arms are stronger now. Other muscles throughout my body are more powerful, too. I can thank my Rock Steady Boxing class for that, and the encouragement of the coaches and the friends I’ve made there. Without the classes, I would have landed on my backside on the cement floor of the play area at the local McDonald’s, otherwise known, for the sake of this column, as the Great Lakes.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Fighting Parkinson’s Disease with Rock Steady Boxing

My dad is a soft-spoken soul. He observes the madness of our lives while quietly rocking in his plushy black chair. His philosophy has always been passive: Worrying doesn’t help you navigate tribulation, and aggression is destructive. So when he told me he was going to join the Rock Steady Boxing program, I almost squirted milk out of my nose.

“Which of your kids will you think of when you’re punching the bags?” I quipped in response to the news.

“None,” Dad responded, but the twinkle in his eye made me doubt the integrity of his words.

It was hard for me to imagine him hitting anything other than his brother. But he seemed excited, enthusiastic about the idea of learning to fight. Soon he’d be able to ward off attackers. Rock Steady could also help him regain a sense of control over Parkinson’s disease.

What is Rock Steady Boxing?

Medical studies conducted in the 1980s and ’90s showed that rigorous physical activity can help manage the symptoms of a neurological disease like Parkinson’s. In 2006, in response to then-current medical research, a boxing gym with an emphasis on the management of Parkinson’s symptoms opened. By focusing on building strength in the core, Rock Steady Boxing aims to impact overall physical balance, flexibility, posture, and gait. These qualities often decline in Parkinson’s patients.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation (formerly Parkinson’s Disease Foundation), nearly 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease per year. Rock Steady, a nonprofit program, hopes to equip patients with the means to slow the progression.

My dad knew all of this before signing up to participate in an affiliate program at the local gym. We scoped out the science behind boxing, finding comfort in our research. Weeks into joining the new gym, dad seemed happier. He was regaining some semblance of control over his life. In a world where every day presents challenges, pounding his fists into the fabric of the dummies seemed to help him channel his energy. Suddenly, there was a productive course of action.

Rock Steady uses “forced” exercise techniques to address common challenges like agility, speed, endurance, accuracy, and hand-eye coordination. Participants even practice shouting to combat the softening of the voice that many patients experience. The program also provides a community for discussing changes that occur during the progression of the disease. Sometimes, patients find a depth of understanding there when their loved ones’ falls short.

Finding empowerment through boxing

Empowerment. That’s the word that circulated on the mouse wheel in my brain when I asked my dad about his journey with Rock Steady. Boxing made him feel like Rocky Balboa, unrestricted to a path of consistent loss. He probably even hummed the theme song while hopping around the boxing gym.

I loved the idea of my dad participating in an environment that would at least give him a butt-kicking workout. Imagining shouts erupting from his mouth was a challenge, but I giggled at the idea of the punching bags being decimated by years’ worth of frustration channeled through his fists. Six months after joining the gym, his face lit up like a lightbulb whenever he discussed Rock Steady. He was feeling strong and capable again.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Don’t Settle for Feeling Good When You Can Feel Great

Rock Steady Boxing

Sherri Journeying Through

I started the exercise program Rock Steady Boxing about four months ago. If you’re like me, you’ve dragged your feet and refused to go for any number of reasons or excuses. Maybe there isn’t a class near you. Or, you feel too tired to go and don’t think you’ll have enough energy to do what’s required. Perhaps money or time is an issue — classes might conflict with prior commitments or your schedule might be too full.

Do me a favor and consider it.

I was reluctant to go, mostly because I am an introvert. (Yes, I really am.) I have to push myself to get myself out there. And so I did. I pushed myself to check it out months ago and am still going. 

In a Parkinson’s Facebook group I belong to, someone asked what decision others had made in their lives since diagnosis that had made the most positive difference in their health. I was actually surprised that so many answers mentioned exercise. I don’t know why I was surprised, as it seems logical to me now. Before my boxing classes, however, I may have given a different answer, such as increasing my chocolate intake.

We are meant to be active.

According to Dr. Raffaella Adami from the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy, we are meant to run, to crouch when sitting down, and to use our leg muscles to lift things. 

Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells — some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.

When I joined my boxing class, I was surprised at how many different exercises they had us do. I figured it was specifically tailored to boxing. But if you think about it, boxing involves the entire body.

The first half of class is spent doing: 

  • Jumping jacks
  • Squats
  • Leg raises
  • Jumping rope
  • Stairsteps
  • Balance beam
  • Ladder steps
  • Box steps
  • Pushups
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Different activities using punching bags, jelly bags, double-end bags, and speed bags.

Then, we practice punches with our coaches. At the end, we usually close out our session with a game or competition, which is my favorite part.

Many people in the Facebook group agreed that their decision to join Rock Steady Boxing had proven to be beneficial. The two most popular exercise contenders after boxing were walking and yoga. I don’t really think it matters significantly which form of exercise you choose as long as you are diligently doing something.

You may think that you’re not doing too badly.

Start an exercise routine. You will soon discover that you may have thought you felt good, but now you feel even better.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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