Fighting back against Parkinson's
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's Disease is a neurological disorder that is characterized by loss or impairment of the neurons in the substantia nigra resulting in a decrease in dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for a variety of things, including movement and mood.
Parkinson's is a disease that is:
- Progressive - it will develop gradually in stages
- Chronic - it is a long-term, lifelong disorder
- Degenerative - it will worsen over time and is incurable
Parkinson's Disease is typically idiopathic, meaning the cause is typically unknown, though aging, genetics, and environmental factors play a role.
Who has Parkinson's?
Average age of diagnosis is 60 years old.
10% of people have young-onset Parkinson's; they are less than 50 years old at the time of diagnosis.
1.5 million people are diagnosed in the U.S. with 60,000 new people diagnosed every year. There are greater than 85,000 people with Parkinson's in California alone.
Men are 1.5X more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's than women.
Treatments for Parkinson's
Currently there is no medication proven to cure or halt the progression of Parkinson's. Various medications, treatments, and therapies are prescribed to manage symptoms of PD.
Dopaminergic drugs such as Carbidopa/Levodopa and dopamine agonists are commonly prescribed for management of PD.
Deep brain stimulation surgery can be used as a treatment to manage PD symptoms that cannot be controlled by medication.
Diet, emotional support, and forced intense exercise are complementary with medication for PD, allowing for increased mobility and quality of life.
What is Rock Steady Boxing?
Rock Steady Boxing is a one-of-a-kind, nonprofit gym founded in 2006 with the mission to empower people with Parkinson's disease to fight back.
Rock Steady provides a uniquely effective form of physical exercise to people who are living with PD. Though millions of dollars have been invested in research to find a cause and cure for PD, people with PD need help today to maintain their quality of life, independence, and dignity while they wait for a cure.
Though it may seem surprising, Rock Steady Boxing's non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness routine is proving to dramatically improve the ability of people with Parkinson's to live independent lives. Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents.
At Rock Steady, Parkinson's disease is the opponent.
Research evidence for boxing
- "Patients with PD showed short-term and long-term improvements in balance, gait, activities of daily living, and quality of life after the boxing training program."
Combs et al. (2011). Boxing Training for Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Case Series. Physical Therapy, 91(1), 132-142.
- "...Only Forced Exercise (FE) results in significant improvements in motor function and bimanual dexterity...FE leads to shift in motor control strategy...which suggests FE may be altering central motor control processes."
Rigdel et al. (2009). Forced, Not Voluntary, Exercise Improves Motor Function in Parkinson's Disease Patients. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 23(6), 600-608.
- "Regular participation in exercise and physical activity improves function and reduces disability in persons with PD and MS."
Ellis T and Motl RW. (2013). Physical Activity Behavior Change in Persons With Neurologic Disorders: Overview and Examples From Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 37. 85-90.
- "....moderate intensity progressive resistance training, 2-3 times per week over 8-10 weeks can result in significant strength, balance and motor symptoms gains in people with early to moderate Parkinson's disease."
Chung CL, Thilarajah S, Tan D. (2016). Effectiveness of resistance training on muscle strength and physical function in people with Parkinson's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Rehabilitation, 30(1):11-23.
- "...continuous, deficit targeted, intensive training may confer neuroprotection and thereby, slow, stop or reverse the progression of the disease or promote neurorestoration through adaptation of compromised signaling pathways."
Hirsch MA and Farley BG. (2009). Exercise and neuroplasticity in people living with Parkinson's disease. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med, 45(2): 215-229.
ESPN Ranks Boxing as the most difficult sport
- Gait alterations - slowness/quickness of movements
- Bradykinesia - slowness of movement
- Rigidity - stiffness of limbs and trunk
- Postural Instability - impaired balance, coordination, higher fall %
- Mood disorder - depression, anxiety, & apathy are common
- Sleep disorders - daytime sleepiness, fatigue
- Cognition - decrease in visual-spatial, organization, planning
- Sensory - numbness, tingling sensations
Benefits for Motor Symptoms
- Gait alterations/Bradykinesia - Forced exercises, such as boxing have been demonstrated to have an immediate increase in walking speed, dexterity, and motor function
- Rigidity / Postural Instability - Boxing is a great activity for developing a strong core, balance and agility. Boxers train to increase their levels of balance, coordination, speed, muscle power, and agility, all of which are useful for PD patients as well.
Benefits for Non-Motor Symptoms
- Mood/Sleep disorder - Boxing and intense exercise have been shown to improve mental health and increase serotonin levels. Though there is no increase in dopamine levels in PD patients, those who regularly exercise are able to utilize their existing dopamine more efficiently, complementing their medication.
- Cognition - forced exercise, such as boxing has been demonstrated to have a neuroprotective effect, increasing the amount of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors) that make neurons more resistant to deterioration. It can also increase the levels of neuroplasticity to outweigh the effects of neurodegradation, resulting in a lessening of symptoms.