CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — By 2020, more than one million people in the United States will be living with Parkinson's Disease. Each year, 60,000 people are diagnosed with the disease.
One boxing club here in town is helping Parkinson’s Disease patients fight for the quality of their lives through its affiliation with Rock Steady Boxing, a national non-profit organization dedicated to battling the effects of Parkinson's through exercise.
Local boxing trainer Ben Flores, whose gym is affiliated through Rock Steady Boxing, said boxing can improve symptoms while giving those living with the disease hope by offering a non-contact, boxing inspired fitness routine. His group meets from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday.
“It’s kind of reverse Parkinson's; we adjust to coordination, timing, hand eye coordination, coordination of the hands and feet. That is kind of what boxing is,” said Flores, the owner of Corpus Christi Boxing Gym.
Parkinson's Disease symptoms include deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function, all of which to Maria Robles can testify. However, the rhythm of training has given her new hope in battling this disorder. When she first started the boxing class, she wasn’t able to speak or move any of her limbs. Now she is able to fight off the crippling symptoms of Parkinson's.
“This class means everything to me," she said. "Because when I came in, I was in a wheelchair and stiff, very stiff. When I came here, they made me exercise."
While medications can help with some symptoms, exercise is the only treatment that has been medically proven to slow the progression of the disease.
“The ultimate goal is to give them their life back. That is the ultimate goal is that they have a group, an outreach, they have someone they can lean on,” said Flores.
And for those who have the disease and are not sure about taking the boxing class, Linda Pittman has some words of advice.
“Get up off your butt and live your life while you got it, and it will make you feel better to move and exercise,” said Pittman.
Many of the boxers in this class also use the Rock Steady program at the Corpus Christi Boxing Club as a support group.
The Rock Steady program uses “forced” exercise techniques to address common challenges like agility, speed, endurance, accuracy, and hand-eye coordination.
Medical studies conducted in the 1980s and ’90s showed that rigorous physical activity can help manage the symptoms of a neurological disease like Parkinson’s.
Parkinson's patients notice a decrease in tremors when they begin boxing training. Linda Pittman, who has been participating in the boxing class for two years, says this type of training has helped her in so many ways.
“One thing Parkinson's takes from you is confidence, and boxing gives it back to you," said Pittman. "That is the big difference.”
Parkinson's disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include:
- Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may a rub your thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremor when it's at rest.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson's disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
- Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson's disease.
- Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
- Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
- Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.