MAR 09, 2017 03:22 AM PST

Parkinson's Patients Go For a Knockout

The sport of boxing has come under some scrutiny lately. Between the connection of head trauma to the neurodegenerative disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and the death last year of champion boxer Muhammad Ali from Parkinson’s disease, the debate has grown about the safety of the sport. While there is currently no known specific cause of Parkinson’s disease and no effective treatment, research studies have linked an increased risk of getting Parkinson’s to mild to moderate head trauma. The research also suggests that the risk increases with repeated trauma. So why would a Parkinson’s patient want to sign up for boxing lessons?
 
Exercise has been proven to help slow the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms like tremors and muscle spasms and rigidity, but boxing? As it turns out it can be helpful, but it’s a very specific kind of boxing class. Rock Steady Boxing, which began in Indianapolis in 2006 is a program designed to help patients who have Parkinson’s stay active. The classes are unique in that they don’t involve boxers hitting each other, or sparring. Heavy bags and speed bags are used by participants to work on their balance and movement. Boxing involves eye-hand coordination as well as footwork and upper body movement so it’s suited to patients who need to get large muscle groups moving.
 
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Pete Schmidt, from The National Parkinson Foundation stated, "The brain is a lazy organ. It has figured out a way to do the things you do routinely with the lowest possible energy. What you want to do is keep your brain as a dynamic organ, and not as a static organ. The way you keep it dynamic is by making it do new things.” While staying mentally active with games like chess or cards, or doing word puzzles is good, with Parkinson’s especially, it’s getting the muscles moving in a way that takes concentration and physical effort that’s the real key. Schmidt cited a 2014 study from Northwestern University that showed how beneficial exercise is.
 
Boxing is complex both physically and mentally since fighters must think ahead as well as coordinate strategy with muscle movement. Former Marion County (Indiana) Prosecutor, Scott C. Newman, who is living with Parkinson’s founded Rock Steady a few years after being diagnosed. Since then it has grown from one small gym with six fighters, to 280 locations in 44 states and 12 countries. It’s also set up as a non-profit charity, with events and classes that raise money for Parkinson’s research.
 
According to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research website, a 2011 study on boxing showed that coordination and gait in patients with Parkinson’s was improved after training in boxing moves that were non-contact. While multiple studies have already shown the benefit of regular exercise, it seems that boxing has found many fans. Some experts believe that increased levels of dopamine are the reason exercise provides a benefit to Parkinson’s patients and boxing could be boosting that as well as most patients report feeling more confident after a class. While it’s not the first thing many would think of in terms of holding off the progression of Parkinson’s, the benefits are certainly shown in the brave boxers who decide to give it a try. Check out the video below to see some of them in action.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 05, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 05, 2018
Can AI Algorithms Accurately Assess Mental Illness?
Mental illness is complicated because while the causes are rooted in brain chemistry, neurological injury or other mechanisms in the brain, what is most af...
SEP 06, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 06, 2018
Self-Harm Impacts Nearly 25% of Girls in the UK
Adolescence can be a trying time for children and their families. Hormone shifts, social media pressures, school stress, and so much else can combine to ma...
SEP 11, 2018
Videos
SEP 11, 2018
Are you sleeping right? The sleep stages explained
Are you having trouble sleeping? Well, you're not alone. The number of people affected by sleep problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia is startling h...
SEP 20, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 20, 2018
Macaques Explain The Neuroscience of Envy
Believe it or not, there are neurological underpinnings that determine how we perceive our environment and often our perception of others. A publication in...
OCT 24, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 24, 2018
Self-Restraint And Will Power Improves Weight-Loss: Scientific Evidence
Weight loss success linked with active self-control regions of the brain...
NOV 19, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 19, 2018
Thalamus plays a role in cognitive flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is our brain's ability to shift from thinking about one thing to another. The higher your speed of moving gears, the greater your cognitive flexibility....
Loading Comments...