ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Around a million Americans have a movement disorder caused by the breakdown of nerve cells called Parkinson’s disease. But some are punching back against the progression of symptoms with a special boxing program called Rock Steady Boxing.
One participant says for him, staying active was literally a doctor’s order.
“He said the three most important things you can do with Parkinson’s are exercise, exercise, and exercise,” said Ed Baker.
Baker took that advice to heart, working out independently, then joining a Rock Steady Boxing class.
“The first one, I told my wife, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Baker said. “And it really was, but I have felt I got some relief from some of my symptoms within a couple of weeks.”
The nonprofit boxing program was founded in 2006 in Indiana.
Two Michigan medicine employees partnered with Title Boxing Club in Ann Arbor to kick off the affiliate program early this year.
“Rock Steady Boxing is a community-based exercise program,” said University of Michigan Health Occupational Therapist Mikaela Lowe. “This is a program for people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, whether they’re newly diagnosed or they’ve been diagnosed for 15 years. And essentially, the essence of this program is a place where people can go to get a great workout and feel like they’re a part of a group.”
Health experts say exercise helps with the regulation of the brain chemical dopamine, which is hindered in Parkinson’s.
Boxing also helps with balance, strength, and stamina.
“The boxing happens typically in the middle of the class, and it gives them an opportunity to kind of take it out on the bag,” Lowe said.
The class also creates a new community of support.
“They become part of the family,” said Title Boxing Club Ann Arbor Owner Dave Lewan. “It sounds cliche, but their world tends to shrink. And if we can allow them a place to go and be a resource for them to not only exercise and, but to have fun. It’s hugely impactful. It’s a great experience. And it is fun to see the progression.”
For Baker, it’s pushing him to keep fighting.
“The goal is to slow the progression of the symptoms as much as possible,” Baker said.
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