Advantages to Rock Steady Boxing

I first learned about Rock Steady Boxing while watching the CBS news program 60 Minutes. Lesley Stahl, the correspondent, presented the segment about an exercise program designed for persons with Parkinson's disease (PD). Her husband, who has PD, was enrolled in a Rock Steady Boxing class and had experienced significant improvement in his PD symptoms.

Rock Steady Boxing was founded by Scott Newman who was diagnosed at age 40 with early-onset PD. Newman engaged in intense and high energy workouts and found significant improvement in his physical health, agility, and daily functioning. In 2006, he founded Rock Steady Boxing, a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The organization provides a non-contact boxing based fitness curriculum designed specifically for those with PD. As of early 2019, the organization has over 500 chapters in 49 states and over 20 international locations.

Finding a local Rock Steady Boxing class

I had assumed that the program was only available in large cities with a large population of persons with PD. Much to my surprise, I found a gym in my small city (Columbia, MO) that had recently started a Rock Steady Boxing class. I inquired about the class and was told that I would need to be evaluated by a physical therapist before joining the class to assess my level of fitness.

No problem, I thought. I’ve been assessed so many times by so many people, what’s one more? So, I went to be assessed and, like the other assessments I’ve had, there were tests for balance, dexterity, strength, and flexibility. A baseline was set that would be used to evaluate my progress in the Rock Steady Boxing program.

I was to return in six months to be reevaluated. Of course, I would know well before then whether the program was making any difference. I was optimistic that it would because research has found strong evidence that regular exercise had the benefit of delaying the progression of the disease.

According to Rock Steady's website, “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 Rock Steady Boxing, Parkinson’s disease is the opponent." 

Does Rock Steady Boxing work?

I have been in the program for over three years and have seen significant improvement in my physical condition and have witnessed the positive impact it has had on other members of the class.

Due to the success of the program, the class has grown so large that the number of class sessions has doubled. The class has attracted a wide variety of people, from those in the earliest stages of PD to a few who are in an advanced stage.

There is one man whose dyskinesia was so bad when he started the class, that he needed someone to be with him at all times to prevent falling. He’s now been in the program for a year and, while still dealing with dyskinesia, no longer needs anyone’s assistance to prevent falling. His experience is typical.

Another advantage of the program has been the camaraderie I found among the people in the class. When I joined the class, it had only been meeting for a couple of months and was quite small. I found that being with others with PD and especially those who maintained their optimism and never complained inspired me and has been as beneficial as the exercises we do.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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