Boxing is typically viewed as a violent sport for the brave; testing the will and endurance of the athletes. However, a new technique called Rock Steady Boxing uses the sport in a unique way to help in the treatment of individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD).
Rock Steady is a boxing-inspired, non-contact fitness programme specifically designed for those people suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Forced Intensive Exercise has been shown in recent studies to be neuroprotective, actually helping to slow the progression of the disease.
Head coach of the programme, Ben Hughes explained that "unlike traditional boxing in which the aim is to inflict as much damage to your opponent as possible, Rock Steady's goal is self-preservation! Getting fit without getting hit. We challenge our boxers both physically and mentally, with plenty of boxing and strength work, stretching and posture correction techniques, fun games, cognitive and vocal activation exercises and more. We keep it fresh and interesting, whilst providing some level of familiarity with each class as well".
The programme is relatively new to T&T, only being introduced in January of this year.
"Personally, the most notable difference for me with all of our boxers is their confidence, even in such a short space of time. Nobody in our programme had ever boxed before. For most, this was the first time stepping foot inside a gym for decades...Physically, I have already noticed our boxers standing a little taller and more upright," Hughes said.
Dennis Gurley, 69, of Westmoorings has been diagnosed with PD five years ago and has been training with Hughes twice a week for the past six weeks. He said, "I would recommend it to anyone with the condition. I'm not really expecting that there would be an improvement. What I'me more expecting is that my condition would be stabilised. Parkinson's is a progressive disease that apparently, there is no cure for. I'd be very lucky if the programme improves my condition but it's more likely to stabilise it and prevent it from deteriorating as quickly as it might otherwise do.
"The boxing sessions that I go to, which is twice a week on Tuesday's and Thursday's, I find them to be very invigorating and very useful in that it involves a lot of stretching and posture improvement and it helps with my balance. I feel good after attending each session," Gurley explained
Coach Hughes who was asked if people were receptive or hesitant to start this new form of treatment, said, "Both, actually! Some people are extremely proactive in seeking out treatments that will simply help them to keep going. For others, it can take many conversations and different touch points between people before someone has the confidence to pick up the phone or get in touch. Once people actually try a class for themselves most are hooked instantly. Others again may take a little longer to pick up certain aspects of the workouts."
10M people living with PD worldwide
There are an estimated 10 million people living with the disease worldwide. According to Mayoclinic.org, Parkinson's Disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Four per cent of people with PD are diagnosed with the disease by age 50 and men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than women. PD presents itself in later life, typically from ages 35 and older.