Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms often start gradually and are sometimes barely noticeable. Over time, however, the disease induces tremors or shakiness and can also cause stiffness and slowing of movement, which may create difficulty with balance and coordination.
Research has shown that exercise is critically important for those with Parkinson’s disease. A variety of studies have found that rigorous exercise, today referred to as intense “forced” exercise, may be “neuro-protective,” which means it could actually slow the progression of the disease.
With its rapid movements, hand-eye coordination, muscular endurance and footwork, it’s no wonder that boxing has become a recommended work-out for those hoping to “punch out” Parkinson’s.
Having scoured the literature and consulted with residents, Arbutus Walk decided to introduce a “boxing for Parkinson’s” exercise class. It is led by Brian Chua who works as a kinesiologist at the community. “Teaching this class is very rewarding,” says Brian. “You really are able to see how residents progress and improve, and they always have such positive feedback about the benefits of the work-out.”
The 45-minute “boxing for Parkinson’s” class includes stretching, footwork and punching (using sparring pads – not people!) The class also includes voice and swallowing exercises to address voice related disorders that can challenge communication as well as eating and drinking. During the class, Brian encourages residents to vocally keep track of repetitions to strengthen their facial and throat muscles. A water drinking exercise that switches up the size of “sips” and “gulps” also helps to address swallowing issues.
“It is a fun, full body work-out,” says Brian. “That’s why the class is of interest to everyone wanting a great work-out and not just those who have Parkinson’s disease. The sparring in particular really gets everyone’s heart rate going.”
Brian tailors each class to meet residents where they are. Modifications are provided to ensure residents of all abilities can participate and benefit from both the physical exercises, but also the stress reduction that comes from being vocal and “throwing punches”!
Ray Meadowcroft, who is one of Tapestry’s newest resident ambassadors (video and story to come later this year!), is an avid boxer and participant in the regularly-scheduled Saturday Boxing for Parkinson’s classes. He loves the variety of the exercises and believes the classes have helped him more effectively manage his Parkinson’s symptoms.
“I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 12 years ago,” says Ray. “For about three or four years after that first diagnosis, nothing changed. But it slowly got more difficult to do things. I exercise every day for at least 45 minutes or so and I never miss the boxing class if I can help it.”
All of our Tapestry communities are always looking at innovative ways to support resident health and wellness. If you are interested in hearing more about our wellness programs and living in an active aging community, please contact our sales team.