Patients with Parkinson's Disease won't go down without a fight

Patients with Parkinson's Disease won't go down without a fight

Boxing has evolved beyond two men in a ring floating like butterflies and stinging like bees. I know many athletes who box, but I was intrigued when I recently discovered a local boxing group — Rock Steady Boxing that’s helping patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

Former Marion County Prosecutor, Scott C. Newman, who is living with PD, founded Rock Steady Boxing in Indianapolis in 2006 after he noticed his own quality of life improving after boxing. Today, they offer training programs to help anyone with the disease, which can affect mobility, cause tremors and shaking, pain, balance issues and changes in speech.

“Each week members participate in boxing-inspired exercises in our gym,” says Joyce Johnson, who has served as executive director at Rock Steady for three years and whose mother suffered with Parkinson’s Disease. “The exercises are adapted from boxing drills and vary depending upon the individual’s fitness and progression of symptoms.”


boxer (Photo by )
Bob Pardue of Indianapolis works on balance and power with the heavy bag. (Photo courtesy of Rock Steady Boxing) (Photo by )

Studies show boxing helps Parkinson's Disease

Today, the boxing group has 30 affiliates in 10 states and three countries. Their Indianapolis location has 175 members with PD that range in age from mid-40s to 92 years. Johnson says that everyone with the disease is a good candidate for their program. “We offer 17 classes each week,” she says. “Classes are divided into four levels which match the progression of PD symptoms. We offer each level at least four times a week and most people attend two or three times a week. Classes are 90 minutes each.”

Rock Steady’s Boxing programs have been studied at the University of Indianapolis and Purdue University, and both physical and cognitive improvements have been documented amongst their boxers. The research suggests that forced, intense exercise may actually be neuroprotective, slowing the progression of the disease.

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Boxing gives patients energy


boxing ring for Parkinson's Disease patients (Photo by )
Parkinson's Disease patients develop agility through boxing ring drills. (Photo courtesy of Rock Steady Boxing) (Photo by )

After receiving his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, Mark Prodger of Carmel, says his neurologist recommended researching the Internet how boxing can help with symptoms. “I was intrigued and that’s how I found Rock Steady,” says the 55-year-old.

Prodger says his PD symptoms included tremors, but the combination of medication and boxing have helped delay further progression of the disease. “I like the way I feel after a boxing session — energized like I can take on the world,” he says. “I also love the camaraderie with other boxers and the enthusiasm of the coaches.”

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• Rock Steady Boxing Parkinson’s Class: $60 per month for unlimited class membership

• Rock Steady Boxing Executive Boxing (open to the general public): $20 per single class or a 10 Class Punchcard, $150

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