Boxing and Parkinson’s Disease: An Unlikely Connection

BoxingMost people know someone who has had the life affected by Parkinson’s Disease (PD) or may even have it themselves. There are around 1 million Americans who are currently battling PD and it is estimated that around 60,000 Americans develop the disease each year. Unfortunately, there is no current cure but there are both physical and pharmacological medicines that can help slow the progression of symptoms. Believe it or not, one of these more “physical” medicines that can help is boxing!

Although each person who is currently fighting PD has a different severity of symptoms than the next person, there are a few common areas that PD usually affects. For example, people with PD will often have trouble with walking, encountering obstacles (i.e. going through a doorway), talking, swallowing, writing, and maintain control of their limbs. As anyone can see, these are very common tasks that are routinely performed throughout the day.

The question is, “Why boxing though?”. Boxing is a sport that includes a combination of different skills needed to perform it at a high level. Basically, boxing is a great way to strengthen or fight against the areas that PD can affect. For example, some of the common areas that boxing can help with are balance, motor skills, movement patterns, and sensory function. Additionally, boxing is a great way to engage both the body and brain. Boxing is a sport where quick reactions and pre-planned movements are needed to remain successful. 

Now, when the word “boxing” is tossed around, most people probably think of fighters like Ali or Foreman and the devastating punches they through. The major difference for boxing with those with PD is that these individuals aren’t boxing against another person. There are many organizations around the country that offer boxing classes for those with PD. The most noteworthy is Rock Steady Boxing, who was the nation’s first gym dedicated to helping those with PD. There are classes for every individual and are based upon the severity of symptoms and current functional capacity of the participant. Rock Steady Boxing offers this statement on their webpage

-“In our gym, exercises are largely adapted from boxing drills. Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents. At RSB, Parkinson’s disease is the opponent. Exercises vary in purpose and form but share one common trait: they are rigorous and intended to extend the perceived capabilities of the participant.”

Another question many people may ask is “Does boxing actually help?”. Turns out the boxing has been shown to ease PD symptoms. On an even better note, clinical research studies have been and are currently being conducted to determine the effectiveness of these boxing classes with those who suffer from PD symptoms. A study in 2011 backs up the notion that boxing can help those with PD as it showed improvements in walking, balance, performance of daily activities, and improvements in the quality of life (I’ve included the link below for those who want to take a further look). 

If you have any questions about PD symptoms or how activities such as boxing can help, please reach out to your physical therapist and they can provide you with more information on the topic!

Posted in: Fitness, Health & Wellness

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