Media coverage on the power of boxing to combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease has been a hot topic in the Parkinson’s community. Rock Steady Boxing, a national program that initiated Parkinson’s specific, non-contact boxing programs with certified coaches, has inspired local boxing gyms in our area to begin offering boxing training to our local community. So, is boxing your way to better health an option for you? More importantly, what are the benefits of this fun and energizing fitness trend?
Learning how to box and executing the six common punches – jab, straight right, left hook, right hook, left uppercut and right uppercut – is a powerful way to develop your skill-related fitness. Skill-related fitness includes agility, balance, power, speed, coordination and reaction time. All these components are of particular importance to someone with Parkinson’s who may be experiencing a decline in several of these areas. Shadow boxing (punching the hands of a trainer in front of you in a sequence) helps improve speed, coordination and reaction time. Taking lateral steps around a boxing ring helps reinforce balance and agility. Putting your body into a split stance to throw your punches helps to strengthen your lower body and make you more stable.
Another excellent advantage to boxing is it enhances your cognitive fitness. Many people with Parkinson’s experience some challenges with clarity of thought, memory, and ability to do certain tasks. Learning boxing punches in sequence and repeating them helps to create new neural pathways which help to strengthen your brain and your functionality. Being exposed to and learning this new activity also helps improve your cognitive abilities.
What may be the most important reason to take up boxing is the feeling of strength and empowerment you will feel as you literally “fight” this disease. Punching a boxing bag can help relieve stress, make you feel in control, and give you an incredibly productive outlet. Boxing is fun, it’s invigorating, and it’s energizing.
In order to participate safely, be sure to get your physician’s clearance before beginning a boxing or exercise program, and always adhere to the safety precautions outlined by your instructor.
Carisa Campanella, BA, AS, is an ACE Health Coach and ACSM Personal Trainer. She is the Program Manager at the Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s. Neuro Challenge provides ongoing monthly support groups and educational programs, individualized care advising and community resource referrals to help empower people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers.