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The Power of Purpose

I have Parkinson’s. I call it “accelerated aging” because it is a progressive neurologic disorder that simulates aging. On my bad days, I feel ten to twenty years older than I am.

For your information, a bad day, for me, has me struggle to get out of bed specifically having to focus all my energy on one arm and then the other arm to just move enough to get my bed cover off my body in hopes of coming up with a strategy to get out of bed and to the bathroom in time. I stressfully drive to the gym and at least show up to the one-hour fitness class. I put on boxing gloves to hit the bag and my arms don’t respond to what my mind is commanding that they do. But I show up. I then go home and walk around my house because I cannot find a comfortable place to sit. Medical marijuana allows me to sit, but makes work, household chores (if fact, almost everything) impossible. The term of art for this phenomenon is “off periods.”

What I can say is that, when I am doing something purposeful, I somehow am able to muster the strength and, yes, courage to get up on stage and provide inspiration to my audience. I love standing in front of a group and provide words of wisdom that help others to change their behavior. It is how I “make a difference.”



For example, I just traveled from Sarasota, Florida to Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday, attended a reception Tuesday night, attended breakfast with the Medical Science Liaison Society on Wednesday, did a 45 minute inspirational talk, attended much of the conference, enjoyed the Awards banquet, went out late with a group of attendees, went to be late, got up early on Thursday and travelled back to Florida. The thing is that I was on the whole time. I had my slower moments, but was able to summon the energy to stay engaged the whole time. I call it the “power of purpose.” It happens to me every time that I have an engagement. I also call it “staying engaged.”

By way of a second real-life example, last Tuesday, I flew to New York City, On Wednesday, I attended my father’s induction into the High School Athletics Hall of Fame. On Thursday, I was in the audience of the Wendy Williams Show, talk about the power of positivity waiting in line with some pumped up people at 7:00 am. On Friday, I took a train 2 hours each way to inspire about 100 individuals at the Mid-Hudson Parkinson’s Association. Finally, on Sunday, my wife and I threw her mother an 80th surprise birthday party. We flew back Tuesday and I was useless for several days. My point is that you can summon the energy to overcome anything for a finite period of time if it is in line with your purpose.

Stay Engaged. Fulfill your Purpose. Make a Difference. Have Faith.


John Baumann is a 17 year veteran of Parkinson’s who has demonstrated the desire and discipline to continue to have an amazing life. He exemplifies the word “resilience” starting out as an attorney, then, after getting the news that he has Parkinson’s, continuing to practice for ten more years while getting prepared to fulfill his lifelong dreams of teaching at a University, writing a book on success, and finding his life’s purpose as an inspirational speaker. John graduated from the University of Massachusetts and Cornell Law School. He worked for Exxon for 10 years before accepting the position of General Counsel of Steel Technologies. John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002 when he was 41 years old. Since being diagnosed, he has taught law at the University of Louisville, College of Business, written a book entitled, Decide Success: You Ain’t Dead Yet, and delivered over 100 keynote presentations.

blueberries-closeup

Tailoring Nutrition to Help Fight Parkinson’s Disease

Good nutritional practices are the groundwork for a healthy and productive life. People with Parkinson’s and their Care Partners have extra challenges to face as they navigate life with this progressive disease that causes tremors, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and impaired balance. For people with Parkinson’s, healthy eating is another strategy to fight the effects of Parkinson’s.

Like all of us, people with Parkinson’s should strive to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. Fats – especially healthy unsaturated fats – are also used for energy. Protein contributes to cell growth, repair and maintenance. It is also important to get necessary vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables to truly feel your best. Drinking water throughout the day keeps us from becoming dehydrated and helps the entire body to function optimally.

Because People with Parkinson’s already have a progressive disease to manage – it is important to try to keep other chronic diseases at bay. Vitamin E and C are antioxidants that combat free radicals (compounds that injure healthy cells) in the body. It is important that people with Parkinson’s eat plenty of antioxidant containing foods such as blueberries and spinach.

People with Parkinson’s are at a greater risk for osteoporosis and falls – which is why adequate amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium are essential to keep bones strong. The body can create its own Vitamin D from 15 minutes a day of sunlight exposure – or it can be found in foods such as salmon, pork and eggs. Vitamin D is essential for helping calcium be absorbed in the body – calcium being the primary component of bones. Good sources of calcium include yogurt, cheese, kale and spinach.

Protein serves many vital functions in the body, and it is important for People with Parkinson’s to get adequate amounts. Protein rich foods can diminish the effects of some Parkinson’s medications when they are taken together, so taking medications an hour prior to eating can help them to work most efficiently.

Fiber is the bulky, indigestible part of plants that passes through the digestive tract. Fiber absorbs water in the body and helps with regularity. People with Parkinson’s have higher instances of constipation – so eating high fiber foods such as bran cereals, whole wheat bread, beans and broccoli can help relieve this condition.

Sometimes diseases of the eye can occur in People with Parkinson’s. Beta-Carotene is a type of Vitamin A that helps maintain retina function and is found in carrots and sweet potatoes. Leafy green vegetables and egg yolks contain lutein and antioxidants that may lower the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Finally, People with Parkinson’s should always be sure to drink enough water. Adequate water consumption helps relieve constipation, prevents dehydration, aids in vitamin absorption in the body, and rids the body of waste.

Always consult your physician if you notice any undesired weight loss, and before you make any changes to your regular eating habits.


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.

Parkinson's disease

Why Parkinson’s Doesn’t Have To Win

An exercise management program specifically designed to attack Parkinson’s disease can help you reduce falls, improve energy, and restore function so you can live a normal, independent, and productive life.

Medical exercise and medical fitness professionals can guide you in using exercise to recover a happy, fulfilling, independent life with this condition.

I know this because I have witnessed exercise win. I have seen people claim victory. I have seen them take their life back from the thief called Parkinson’s (keep reading and I will share a story with a great ending)

The Condition

Parkinson's disease

Just to familiarize you, Parkinson’s is a progressive neurologic disorder that affects 1% of the population over 50. The condition progressively destroys cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter controlling movement. Parkinson’s is characterized by tremors, postural instability, impaired movement, rigidity, a shuffling walk, difficulty moving the body, and speech impairment.

The Parkinson’s posture is characterized by an excessive forward head drop, rounded shoulders, forward trunk lean, and side to side shuffling. This posture is very taxing on the body and leaves its afflicted depleted of strength, energy, and confidence in their body.

Falls are a major concern with Parkinson’s disease as the body loses its ability to “catch” itself if it starts to fall. A person will experience decreased reaction time, and a feeling of “slowness”, making it very easy to fall and sustain serious injury.

If I just described your daily struggle, there is GOOD NEWS!

Medical Exercise

An exercise management program specifically designed to attack Parkinson’s disease can help you reduce falls, improve energy, and restore function so you can live a normal, independent, and productive life.

Let’s discuss the components of an effective exercise program for Parkinson’s and how it can benefit you or your loved one.

Range of Motion or Flexibility Training

Parkinson’s disease (PD), reduces the tone (or pull) of the extensor muscles (helps you stand upright). Consequently, when walking, the PD client takes shorter steps and his/her posture is stooped with bent arms, bent knees, and a forward falling head. Over time, this flexion posture (leaning forward) results in further weakening of the extensor muscles (helps you stand upright), and it becomes more difficult to fully stand upright. Joint and muscle stiffness discourages movement, and eventually, the tissue around the joint shortens and restricts movement. Flexibility training improves joint function, reduces stiffness, and improves mobility.

I recommend you focus on the following areas for stretching:

  • Ankle plantar flexion
  • Rotation & lateral flexion of the pelvis
  • Cervical & thoracic extension, rotation, lateral flexion
  • Outer hamstrings
  • Elbow extension and supination
  • Finger flexion and extension

Resistance Training

Gentle strengthening exercises for your extensor muscles (muscles that hold you upright) are super important because they counteract the flexion (forward lean) tendency seen in PD. Extensor muscles of the body include calf (gastrocnemius), anterior thigh (quadriceps), buttocks (gluteals), back (spinal extensors), back of the upper arm (triceps), mid-back (posterior shoulder girdle) and back of the neck (neck extensors). With this, the muscles included in hip extension, external rotation, and abduction are vitally important to improving balance and gait and preventing falls.

The benefits of improving your muscle strength and endurance include:

  • Increased ability to perform Activities of Daily Living
  • Increased independence and self-efficacy
  • Increased lean body mass
  • Maintained or increased bone mineral density
  • Counteraction of the Parkinson’s posture
  • Enabling you to feel better, stand taller, and function more effectively
  • Strengthening muscles and joints, helping you stand upright and move

Cardiorespiratory training

Rigidity can reduce your ability to inhale and exhale your breath. Additionally, PD may cause decreased chest expansion, slowed movements, fatigue, and poor endurance during prolonged activity. Aerobic activity has been shown to be extremely beneficial for improving cardiovascular and respiratory fitness, as well as the generalized health of the PD client. You want to perform aerobic (or cardiorespiratory) exercises involving large muscle groups to increase your heart rate, thereby improving cardiorespiratory function. Aerobic exercise is most beneficial when started early in the disease process.

Some great ways to perform CV exercise include:

  • Walking
  • Stationary biking
  • Elliptical
  • Swimming (aqua aerobics)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Low-impact dance

Balance & Postural Training

Incorporating postural and balance training into your exercise program cannot be emphasized enough. Parkinson’s pain, stiffness, and lack of muscle strength disrupts your ability to perform efficient, controlled, and coordinated movements like walking. Awkward movement and postural patterns, like side shuffling, will require more energy and will increase your fatigue, resulting in decreased body stability and increased risk of falling.People with PD may develop new postural problems elicited by the disease, or the disease may exacerbate old postural problems. Poor posture fatigues the body. Injury can occur if proper body mechanics are not utilized. Therefore, it is very important that you learn what healthy posture is and how to maintain it throughout your daily activities and during exercise.

Postural training is highly beneficial as it:

  • conserves your energy
  • prevents falling
  • reconnects you with your body

trevor-parkinsons1Postural exercises should focus on increasing your awareness of proper posture and teaching you how to achieve and maintain correct body alignment with all exercise. Proper body mechanics should be a component of the total exercise program. Your program should emphasize sitting, standing, and walking tall. Include techniques for bed mobility tasks, getting in and out of chairs, descending and rising from the floor, and exercises involving proper use of the back muscles in tasks of daily living/lifting, etc.

Body awareness is another component of posture training. This means learning how to observe and listen to your body. People who are aware of their bodies are more likely to recognize incorrect positioning and movements that could unnecessarily stress a joint, increase muscle tension, or increase risk of falling. They are also better able to avoid overexertion.

Prior to activity, you should go through an alignment checklist from foot to neck focusing unloading your joints and using the right muscles to stand. You can practice this in front of a mirror to visually learn how to adjust your body.

Check out this great diagram (right) from the Mayo clinic that illustrates some postural checkpoints to focus on during walking.

Activities that enhance postural awareness go a long way toward improving your ability to recognize and correct postural problems.

Victory

As you read at the beginning of this article, Parkinson’s attempts to steal freedom people by overwhelming them with frustration, grief, or fear of living as a slave to a disease for the rest of their lives. However, as you can see, exercise can set you free. Exercise can teach your body to move right again, and exercise can teach you the tools you need to fight back and reclaim your freedom.


Trevor Wicken has been practicing as a Medical Exercise Practitioner for almost two decades and has a Bachelors degree in Sports Medicine and a Masters Degree in Exercise Science. He is certified as an elite trainer through NASM and has spent his entire career passionately helping people to use exercise and movement to reduce pain, prevent injury, and manage medical conditions. 

brain-neurons

Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer disease.  Unfortunately, the incidence of Parkinson’s disease has not declined, and its impact is seen in all races.  This is due in part to the fact that the population of the world is greater than ever before and increasing. In addition, people are living longer than in previous generations, and the baby boomer generation, one of the largest generations in history, has reached old age.

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

Age: Risk of Parkinson’s disease increases with age.  The average age of onset for this disease is 55 years and the rate of incidence increases steadily until the age of 90.

Gender: Men have a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease than women.

Family history: Individuals with a family history of Parkinson’s disease are at a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, it is said that those with affected first-degree relatives double their risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Agricultural work: Individuals exposed to pesticides and herbicides have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Drinking well-water and living in rural areas have also been associated with an increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease.

Head Trauma: Head trauma can be a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease as is seen in the case of boxers. One study showed that trauma to the upper cervical region, head, and neck was a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. However, in some cases it took years for these symptoms to appear.

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown.  Regarding the molecular events that lead to the development of this disease, there is still some uncertainty in terms of what causes the neurodegeneration seen in Parkinson’s disease. The current hypothesis is that Parkinson’s disease may result from the interaction between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility.

The primary symptoms for PD are deficiencies in motor performance due to the loss of the dopamine pathways in the brain. Decreased dopamine production in the substantia nigra in the brain causes the 4 primary motor symptoms:

  • Bradykinesia: described as slowness in the execution of movements while performing daily activities.
  • Rigidity or Stiffness: caused by an involuntary increase in tone of the limbs and axial musculature.
  • Resting Tremor: Found primarily in the arms and hands and can be socially bothersome. Resting tremors are less disabling since they often vanish with the initiation of activity (especially in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease).
  • Postural Instability: manifested in a slow speed of walking, shortened stride length, narrowing of base of support, and leaning towards one side.

Exercise should be targeted for the primary motor symptoms with exercise and occupational therapy to improve quality of life. Recommended program components include:

  • Posture, gait, mobility
  • Fall risk reduction
  • Cardiorespiratory health
  • Strength and function
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Joint health

Exercise prescription for clients with PD includes: (ACSM)

  • An individualized program
  • Cardiorespiratory: use guidelines for healthy adults
  • Muscular Fitness: use guidelines for healthy adults
  • Flexibility: slow, static exercises for all major and minor joints in the body including the upper torso, spine, and neck.
  • Neuromotor Exercises: help with balance, gait, and postural instability. Clinicians use a gait belt or parallel bars to ensure safety depending on the severity of the symptoms.  Include functional exercises to improve ADLs and quality of life.

PD exercise therapy includes intervention with many kinds of exercise modes. Both personal training and group fitness have been successful in helping to manage the disease and reduce the symptoms. There is not strong evidence at this point to show that exercise prevents PD, but it is believed that exercise may play a role.  Exercise is however the mainstay for symptom management and slowing disease development.

Want more on this topic? Register for June’s upcoming webinar:


June M. Chewning BS, MA has been in the fitness industry since 1978 serving as a physical education teacher, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, gym owner, master trainer, adjunct college professor, curriculum formatter and developer, and education consultant. She is the education specialist at Fitness Learning Systems, a continuing education company.

References and Resources:

brain

Neuroplasticity and the Aging Brain

One of the greatest concerns for the aging population is cognitive decline which leads to loss of independence as well as an extreme burden on the caretakers.  Individuals worldwide are fearful of being diagnosed with any of the various cognitive issues: Dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of cognitive debilities.  In 2015 there was an estimated 47 million people living with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association reported that they believe there is sufficient evidence to support the link between several modifiable risk factors and a reduced risk for cognitive decline and sufficient evidence to suggest that some modifiable risk factors may be associated with reduced risk of dementia. Specifically, that regular physical activity and management of cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, obesity, smoking, and hypertension) reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia. The Association also believes there is sufficiently strong evidence to conclude that a healthy diet and lifelong learning/cognitive training may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Positive association between aerobic exercise or CV fitness and executive functions is highly consistent but cannot determine causality.  Aerobic exercise (AE) has shown moderate to medium sized effects on executive function and memory. Resistance Training (RT) has improved executive function and memory. Combined AE and RT has the biggest (potentially synergistic) effect. It has been proposed that the physical and cognitive exercise might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  Larger benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone.  “Claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading. … To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life (Consensus statement, 2014).

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize and rebuild itself by forming new neural connections. The more neural pathways you have, the more resilient your brain is. Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons (brain cells).

Contrary to popular belief, neurogenesis continuously occurs in the adult brain under the right conditions such as with exercise.  Substantial benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone. It was also noted that the physical and cognitive exercise together might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  “We assume, that physical exercise increases the potential for neurogenesis and synaptogenesis while cognitive exercise guides it to induce positive plastic change” (Bamidis, 2014).  To maximize cognitive improvement, combine physical exercise with cognitive challenges in a rich sensorimotor environment that includes social interaction and a heaping dose of fun.

Brain health is becoming extremely important as individuals live longer.  Today there is much more information available on how to train the aging brain.  Three great resources are:


Dianne McCaughey Ph.D. is an award winning fitness specialist with more than 35 years experience in personal training, group exercise, coaching, and post-rehabilitation. She is a master trainer for multiple companies and practices and teaches optimal wellness emphasizing the mind, body and spirit. She works with special populations and focuses on posture, gait, balance and corrective exercise programs for better function and health.

Cody Sipe, PhD, has an extensive background in the fitness industry with 20 years of experience as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, program director, exercise physiologist and club owner. He is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Research in the physical therapy program at Harding University. He is the co-founder and vice president of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI).

 

senior man having a massage in a spa center

Massage for Parkinson’s

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the United States is estimated at 1 million, with an additional 50,000 patients being diagnosed every year.

The most common signs of Parkinson’s disease are tremors, muscle rigidity, akinesia (temporary inability to move), dyskinesia (inability to execute specific voluntary movements at will) and loss of postural reflexes. The back posture becomes stooped, and the walk gradually turns to a shuffle as the arms stop swinging.

Can Massage Help?

senior man having a massage in a spa centerAccording to a 2002 study conducted by the Touch Research Institute:

Massage therapy can improve many PD symptoms and function, from the reduction of rigidity and improvement of sleep, to the reduction of tremor and increase of daily activity stamina symptoms.

The underlying reduction in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, is the cause of many of the PD symptoms. Massage has been shown to have positive effect on the release of neurotransmitters, enhancing their calming influence.

Other Benefits of massage are:

  • Improved Sleep and digestion
  • Reduced Stress, Depression and Moodiness
  • Relief for Cramping and Rigidity
  • Less Fatigue and Anxiety
  • Reduced Perception of Pain

Precautions

  • Give a full medical history, including other injuries and conditions besides Parkinson’s
  • Use Caution in areas with loss of sensation, light touch is best.
  • Be Careful getting on and off the massage table, balance issues may cause risk of falling.

What to Expect

Your therapist should take a complete health history, including a thorough list of treatments and side effects such as neuropathy, rigidity and skin problems.

But your therapist should also ask about other conditions or injuries you may have. You and your therapist should agree on goals for the session, and you should have a chance to explain your preferences for pressure, and the massage environment such as temperature, music, lighting, etc.

Disrobing: Massage can be done over your clothing (without oil) if your balance is an issue, and it’s too much trouble to dress and undress. If you decide to disrobe and you are concerned about falling, you can bring an aide with you, or ask your therapist for help.

During the massage, you will always be kept covered, observing your modesty and keeping you warm. Don’t hesitate to request that your therapist, or someone else help you on and off the massage table.

Position and Turning over: Some people have trouble turning over due to rigid or weak muscles. If you feel like a fish out of water lying on your stomach, just ask your therapist to work with you lying on your side instead. In this position your therapist still has good access to massage your back muscles, and you won’t feel helpless or confined.

How to Find a Practitioner

Close-up of a physiotherapist massaging a senior woman's back in the medical officeCheck with your city or state to find out what the basic requirements are for massage therapists.

Get a few names and numbers and start calling. Your interview should include questions about training and experience in general practice, and also experience with clients like you. Ask about office environment and policies.

Choose a practitioner that has extra training and experience working with cancer patients. A more complicated health history indicates that the therapist’s expertise is more important. Also, in some cases it is best to get your doctor’s approval.

Most of all, massage should never hurt, and if it does, you should say something. A conscientious massage therapist will constantly seek your feedback during the massage to make sure that the treatment is within your comfort zone the entire time. If you don’t feel that your feedback or concerns are (or will be) addressed, you’re not in the right place.

The MedFit Network can help you find a reliable, educated massage practitioner in your area. In the right hands, you are sure to relax and find comfort through skilled touch. Search Now.


Kathy Flippin’s passion is to offer excellent therapeutic massage, and educate her clients on how they can take the best care possible of themselves. Kathy is the owner of Dynamic Touch Massage and has been a Sports Massage Therapist since 1997. Her clients include everyone from professional athletes to active grandmothers.

Trainer helping senior woman exercising with a bosu balance

Five Tips for Training Clients with Parkinson’s and/or Multiple Sclerosis

When training clients with a neuromuscular disease such as Parkinson’s and/or Multiple Sclerosis there are many challenges.  The challenges can range from physical to emotional setbacks.  It is important to focus on the physical as well as mental capacity.  There are certain patterns associated with exercises that provide balance, core, flexibility, facial, and hand motor training, that keep the mind focused.  Below are five tips when working with clients who have Parkinson’s and/or Multiple Sclerosis.

Balance Training

Balance is one of the first things to decrease as we get older, but much quicker with those with Parkinson’s and/or Multiple Sclerosis.  One common injury is falling so it is important to focus on balance.  Start with simple single exercises to work on balance.  Even standing with just the eyes closed can provide a challenge.  Also try unstable surfaces like a balance board or Airex-pad to challenge balance.

Core Training

Incorporating core exercises will help your clients with the balancing and movement exercises.  If the client can stabilize core muscles during the balance exercises it will help them to be more aware of posture and overall strength.  Plank exercises are great for utilizing the core.  Also a seated ball lift one leg while maintaining posture helps with posture when sitting.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility or range of Motion exercises combine Balance and Core Training to help improve flexibility and coordination.  There are two types of flexibility training, Static and Dynamic.  Static stretching is holding a specific stretch for 45-60 seconds.  This is great after working out to prevent injury and improve range of motion.  Dynamic flexibility is more movement based.  Exercises such as reverse lunges help improve flexibility while moving, while challenging balance and the core.

Facial Exercises

Particularly with Parkinson’s clients, they will get a look to their face that looks like there is no expression.  To keep these muscles in the face active doing simple jaw, mouth, eyebrow, and cheek movements will help keep facial muscle active.

Writing

Writing is important keep the mind and emotional part of having Parkinson’s and/or Multiple Sclerosis active.  Motor skills in the hand will decrease as well as focus and concentration.  So things like cross word puzzles and word finds are great for incorporation of mind and body.

In summary, it is critical to use all of these tips for Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis training in progression.  Each client is different, so challenge them to their fitness level.  Progress or digress exercises accordingly.  Take into account the psychological well-being of your client when progressing them in their workout regimen.


Jason Williams has been a personal trainer, pilates instructor, and wellness coach for 13 years and is a graduate from Lynchburg College in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Medicine.  While at Lynchburg College he was a 1st team All-Conference Track and Field Athlete.  Jason has worked with a wide variety of clientele from kids, professional athletes, seniors and special populations.  He recently wrote a children’s health and fitness book, The Adventures of Frankie Fitness, which motivates kids and adults to live a healthy lifestyle.  He currently works at The Maryland Athletic Club in Baltimore, Maryland. Find Jason at Charm City PT.

Boxing-Shadows

How Boxing Can Help You Be a Parkinson’s Fighter

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.