Rock Steady Boxing program helps Parkinson's patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For most of us, Parkinson's disease conjures up images of trembling along with difficulties with speech and balance - much like we've seen with Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox.

But now there a promising new therapy which has many Parkinson's patients feeling better both mentally and physically.

It is a new concept; a new way of working out. People are putting down their canes and walkers and picking up boxing gloves.

They are pulling no punches at the Edgewater Fitness Center. This is the "Rock Steady Boxing" class and everyone here is also fighting Parkinson's disease. Chuck Grant was diagnosed 20 years ago; he's been boxing here since they opened in May.

"It helped my agility. I'm able to walk without my cane help most of the time," said Chuck Grant, a Parkinson's patient.

It is a relatively new therapy, Rock Steady Boxing. It started in Indianapolis a few years ago based upon the swift movements and the hand-eye coordination involved in boxing.

"What happens a lot is your posture get slumped over so we are working a lot on punches. It's that you're working on strengthening, stretching out the chest, strengthening the back, helping the posture right away," said John Magallanez, a coach.

Jim Kroeger owns this gym. He himself learned he had this neurological disorder two years ago. That's when he first went through "Rock Steady Boxing" therapy and then decided to bring the concept here.

"It's helping me move better. It's keeping me young, it's making me feel great, like I said. I just want to help other people in the area so that they can share the benefits that I'm realizing," Kroeger said.

And make no mistake about it, this is a really tough workout.

"We test everybody when they first come in so we know where their limitations are, where we can safely work them out. But we are pushing the limits as far as there intensity goes, as much as we possibly can. We make them sweat. We make them work. They leave pretty tired," said Eric Johnson, co-owner and coach.

"Because this is so intense, the comradery, and the support and the lack of judgment. We're all at different stages. If you can't do something, you can modify until you get stronger. And then you can do it. That's the key. I've noticed in just a month a tremendous difference," said Mary Pappas, a Parkinson's patient.

Right now there is no cure for Parkinson's. These people say they are just fighting for a better quality of life.

"I don't want to die. I want to help others. You want to do something positive. You want a reason for getting out of the bed in the morning. And to see people and you see the look on their faces and you see them move better and walk better, that's tremendously rewarding spiritually," Kroeger said.

The National Parkinson's Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to "Rock Steady Boxing-Windy City" to get the program started. There are other some gyms trying it in the suburbs now and Kroeger is hoping to open more facilities in Chicago.

"Rock Steady Boxing-Windy City"
1106 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

For general information and other "Rock Steady" locations:

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