How a Boxing Gym Helps Parkinson’s Patients Take Control of Their Lives

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Mark Skoko, 64, and Deborah Janes, 69, both have Parkinson’s disease. Works with Physical Therapist Marcela Jaimes during the Grizzly Strides at Grizzly Boxing and Fitness in Calgary, Alta on May 17, 2023.Leah Hennel/The Globe and Mail

Boxers in a brightly lit Calgary gym Clenched fist into the sandbag Not training for a three-round amateur or a 12-round championship distance, they’re fighting a lifelong opponent. That’s Parkinson’s disease.

Peter Grant, who was diagnosed with a neurological disorder in 2015 at the age of 62, shuddered while punching rhythmically during a class tailored for Parkinson’s disease at Grizzly Boxing. & Fitness, he said he imagined a cyst as a disease. By hitting as hard and fast as you can with each hit.

“You can give up, give up, or go all in,” he says. “It’s almost like a cancer patient focusing on their cancer as if they were hurting it. as if they were destroying it And showing that image gives them even more power over cancer.”

There is no known cause or cure for Parkinson’s disease. But studies have shown that exercise can slow the progression of the disease. Contactless boxing programs for people with the disease, such as Grizzly Strides in Calgary, are popular across Canada. To help patients manage symptoms such as tremors, slowed movements stiff muscles and delayed recognition

Mr Grant, who retired as an emergency physician and transport paramedic in Alberta’s Air Rescue due to the disease, said the class had pushed him to the limit both physically and mentally. But more importantly, it gave him hope and a sense of community. It’s an area where he doesn’t have to face the eyes of a referee who can’t understand why he wobbles or shakes.

“If you are in a solitary situation You need to try to build a group of friends or other people who can help you through the disease process. It makes life so much easier,” he said.

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Marcela Jaimes works with a participant with Parkinson’s in the Grizzly Strides boxing show.Leah Hennel/The Globe and Mail

“There is an understanding between the people who are in the program without you having to explain why you have dyskinesia and why you have tremors and why you have a bad day.”

Mr. Grant joined six others in his Monday morning class in July. This is a class for intermediate or advanced boxers with Parkinson’s disease. A bright orange cone sits in the center of the gym. With a basketball resting on top of two basketballs, participants later dribble with their non-dominant hand to strengthen them before jumping.

It’s one of several stations for circuit training that tests the body and mind.

Small groups move from one group. Train your body and mind to another station. by naming the months in the calendar reversely while balancing half the ball and another station Show an animal or a musical instrument in the guessing game. Then write the correct answer on the large dry erase board. The puzzles help build non-verbal skills, while the writing exercises help identify another characteristic of Parkinson’s: small, cramped handwriting.

then come boxing

The group spread out in the gym. punch the air high and fast then low and slow Some members pretend to fight each other. Dodges and giggles before it’s time to put the glove on the wrapped hand.

Darcy Irwin, the gym owner who is the class leader. Switch between English and Spanish. As she calls the combination of punches in boxing. with labels one through eight, or one pass ocho.

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Peter Grant, 69, said attending the Grizzly Strides has made him consistently feel better both physically and mentally.Leah Hennel/The Globe and Mail

“The reason boxing is effective is in terms of the body or movement. Their balance and coordination are increasingly challenged because this is degenerative,” says Irwin. “Because their opponent, who is ill, is about to get worse. So you have to be able to combat that with masterful skills in balance and coordination.”

Parkinson’s disease itself is not a serious disease. but difficulty swallowing which develops over time May lead to aspiration and pneumonia which is a common cause of death Another danger is falling. Which is why exercise is so important for adapting and fighting disease. This is in addition to other risks such as cerebral atherosclerosis, which affects the blood vessels in the brain and cardiovascular disease.

“We prepare them along the way to deal with these stimuli that come upon them. by trying to make them lose their balance Which becomes anything: a doorway, other people, children,” Irwin said. That’s when the boxing stance Feet planted firmly on the floor at shoulder length are helpful. she added Helps a person recover quickly.

Mr Grant, who has been attending the class for about four years, said having Parkinson’s means there are bad days and good days that don’t follow a clear pattern. But he said Grizzly Strides made him consistently feel better both physically and mentally.

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