Boxing program gives Parkinson’s patients a chance to fight back

A group of folks at Title Boxing Club in Lexington have found a way to fight back — in a literal sense — against Parkinson’s disease and its effects.


At the boxing club, the Rock Steady Power Hour — which usually lasts about 75 minutes and is held four days a week at 10 a.m. — has changed countless Parkinson’s patients’ lives, and Dr. John Slevin recommends it.


“There is a fair amount of data that indicates both motor and non-motor signs can be improved by all of this,” said Slevin, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky and a practicing neurologist at UK Chandler Hospital.


Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. It has no known cure.


Parkinson’s patient Tom Mowery, 65, says he’s proof of a changed life.


“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a number of years ago, I was determined to do whatever I could to fight back against the disease,” Mowery said. “Boxing has given me the opportunity to do that.”


Ryan Turner, Title Boxing’s certified Parkinson’s Rock Steady trainer, leads the fast-paced exercise program that Mowery and others participate in. The program is about a year old and has 12 regular participants.


“It’s a workout, but it’s fun because everybody has the same problem,” said Mary Jo Holland, 82, who has Parkinson’s. “We just support each other. It’s kind of like a family.”

Holland, who teaches a dance class at the Lexington Athletic Club, said it’s important to stay active when suffering from Parkinson’s.


“When I leave here, I just feel so good,” Holland said. “It just does something to you.”


During his first Rock Steady session, Mark Stauffer, who suffered coordination problems, fell and broke three ribs. He missed six to eight weeks of the classes because of the injury. The camaraderie of the class was the reason he returned.


Stauffer praised Turner’s style: “He pushes you. You feel as though he’s concerned about you; that he genuinely wants to help you out. He doesn’t let you give up. He doesn’t let you slow down. He pushes you to better yourself.”


Turner made it a personal project to start the Rock Steady program in Lexington. The program is created to meet fitness levels of people at all stages of Parkinson’s with the goal to “maximize the mental, emotional and physical potential” of Parkinson’s patients. It starts by helping them adapt, “eliminating the commonly occurring negative self talk or self image” that often accompanies a degenerative illness.


Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 by Scott C. Newman of Indiana, a Parkinson’s patient.


The program includes a workout that teaches participants to box and works to improve posture, flexibility and strength. In addition to boxing, the class includes stretching, jogging, jumping jacks, lunges, medicine ball exercises and jumping rope.


“What we’re really selling here besides exercise is camaraderie and friendship and teamwork,” Turner said. “For (people with) Parkinson’s, they’re being left in the dark, in more than one way, and I really feel like I can be a shining light for them.”


Turner said he also has benefited from guiding and advising his class.


“You wouldn’t believe the comical relief that is in this class,” Turner said. “I do not smile more in my week than I do in that hour and fifteen minutes that I’m with these guys.”

Paul Corum, 46, is the youngest person in the program.


“Ryan works us hard,” he said. “He has such enthusiasm, and everyone loves him. I really can’t put into words how great he has been.”


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