While every individual has a unique game plan for living with Parkinson's disease (PD), exercise is an important part of the management strategy. Not only is it good for general health, but certain forms of activity can target
specific Parkinson's symptoms. Although one distinct type of exercise isn't universally recommended for all people with PD, many have gotten hooked on non-contact boxing. Rock Steady Boxing -- a boxing program designed for people with Parkinson's -- seems to be sweeping the nation.
This full-body workout, recently highlighted in The Washington Post, tests balance, agility and hand-eye coordination, all of which can be affected by Parkinson's. It also can build muscle strength, potentially help speech (some say grunting or yelling while punching aids with vocal projection) and even offer an outlet for frustration toward symptoms or disease. Plus, Rock Steady promotes comradery and community, reminding participants that they're all “fighting together against Parkinson's.”
Like many types of exercise, boxing can ease a range of PD symptoms. Research suggests, however, that it might be doing even more. A 2011 study in the journal Physical Therapy showed improvements in walking, balance, performance of daily activities and quality of life in six people who boxed regularly. Investigators are working to learn more about how exercise benefits people with Parkinson's and which symptoms respond to which types and levels of activity. A wide variety of exercise trials are currently recruiting participants.
While we continue to learn more about Parkinson's disease and exercise, we do know that living an active lifestyle supports overall health. No matter what kind of exercise you choose -- boxing, biking or swimming -- if you enjoy it, you'll be more likely to make it a habit!
* NOTE: The medical information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has a policy of refraining from advocating, endorsing or promoting any drug therapy, course of treatment, or specific company or institution. It is crucial that care and treatment decisions related to Parkinson's disease and any other medical condition be made in consultation with a physician or other qualified medical professional.