Local citizens who have Parkinson’s disease and want to take a punch at the crippling illness now have their shot.
Members of the Tooele County Parkinson’s Disease Support Group learned Friday that a Rock Steady Boxing program recently opened in Lehi, Utah, and is looking for recruits who have the disease.
“Spread the news; get the word out,” Sherri Bickely, a certified Rock Steady coach, told the group. “We’re looking for boxers.”
Rock Steady is an exercise program that was founded in 2006 by a 40-year-old attorney in Indianapolis, Indiana, who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, said Bickley. She explained attorney Scott Newman began one-on-one boxing training after his diagnosis and noticed dramatic improvement in his physical health despite the disease.
According to the national Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the illness is a chronic and progressive movement disorder. It involves the malfunction and death of neurons in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical that controls movement and coordination.
Patients suffer from tremors in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; slowness of movement; stiffness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk; and impaired balance and coordination.
The cause is unknown and there is no current cure, but treatment options can help manage the disease. Nearly one million U.S. citizens have Parkinson’s.
According to Rock Steady Boxing’s website, Newman opened a small gym and boxing ring after seeing his agility and daily functioning improve. Word spread quickly about the unique program and it grew. In response, Newman created training programs to meet the fitness levels of a variety of people, from newly-diagnosed patients to those who have been living with Parkinson’s for years.
The program’s mission statement is to “empower people with Parkinson’s disease to fight back.” A 2011 study, published by the journal Physical Therapy, indicated six participants active in the program showed improvements in walking, balance, performance of daily activities and quality of life, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
“Rock Steady Boxing is not a therapy,” Bickley said. “It is a non-contact exercise program, inspired by boxing, and specifically designed for persons with Parkinson’s.”
It is available to both men and women, and age is no barrier. Also, prior knowledge of boxing is not required, she said.
The program is currently held at Legends Boxing, located at 80 N. 850 East in Lehi. Bickley said she currently has seven recruits. The 90-minute classes are held at 11 a.m. Mondays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 11 a.m. Thursdays, and noon on Saturdays.
Bickley said the cost is $85 per month for unlimited attendance and free use of equipment. Participants are advised to come at least twice per week to receive the most benefit from the exercises.
Bickley acknowledged it may be a challenge for Tooele County residents to participate more than once per week, due to the 50-minute, one-way commute from Tooele City to Lehi via SR-36 and SR-72. She said special monthly fees can be arranged for locals who can only attend once instead of the recommended two to three times per week.
The program coach said it is her goal to expand Rock Steady Boxing to Salt Lake and Tooele counties. She urged those who are interested in attending, but don’t yet want to commit, to come and watch a training session.
The Tooele County Parkinson’s Disease Support Group meets at 1 p.m. at Tooele Applied Technology College on the third Friday of every month, according to group founder and co-facilitator Barb Royal. Citizens interested in participating are encouraged to attend, she said. For more information, call Royal at 801-656-9673 or co-facilitator Hal Meyer 435-840-3684.
TATC is located at 88 S. Tooele Boulevard in Tooele City.