Knocking out Parkinson's disease through boxing

People with Parkinson's are using boxing to help with side effects of the disease.

- Behind the doors of Title Boxing Club, you will find many “boxers-to-be.” Around 500 amateur boxers go to the facility weekly in Lakeville, but a special dozen come to the gym to battle more than the heavy bag.

Title Boxing started the “Knock Out Parkinson’s” campaign in March. The program is designed to help people fighting Parkinson’s disease keep their motor skills by using boxing techniques.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that says it can slow the progression (of Parkinson’s disease) or even stop the progression,” participant Doug Schuster said. “All I know is that when I’m done I feel good.”

Lakeville’s Title Boxing chapter got the idea for these classes after seeing Rock Steady gym in Indianapolis begin a similar program a few years ago.

The workload is intense for the group. Sessions typically last 45 minutes and consist of stretching, sprinting around the gym and punching bags.

“They call (Parkinson’s) the shrinking disease, so we go for big movements,” Title Boxing general manager Tate Wheeler said. “It’s the opposite of what they are used to doing to warm the body up.”

Some participants say they were reluctant about the correlation between boxing and Parkinson’s given Muhammad Ali’s history with the disease. However, most are believers in the healing power of the sport in a short amount of time.

“The repetitive motion and just hitting that bag hard really does help,” participant Goeff Fischer said.

“It is one of the best things I’ve found to fight (Parkinson’s),” Shuster added. “Parkinson’s wants to make everything small, quiet and slow. Something like boxing is big and loud, and you can almost feel it fighting back.”

Two Title Boxing clubs in the Twin Cities area host “Knock Out Parkinson’s” programs. You can find the classes at the Apple Valley/Lakeville, Arden Hills and Coon Rapids locations.

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