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Boxing program helps Parkinson’s disease patients

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Rock Steady Boxing

Bob Oswald works out during the Rock Steady Boxing class for people with Parkinson's disease at the YMCA in Anniston.

Ann Angell, the fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County, and Louise Lockridge, a group fitness instructor there, help Parkinson’s disease patients learn to box.

Both received special certifications to teach the Rock Steady Boxing program, a nationally known exercise program tailored to delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s through challenging exercises.

In 2006, a prosecutor in Indiana was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His friend, a boxer, taught the prosecutor how to slow the disease’s progression with boxing skills designed to improve balance, core strength, flexibility, posture, gait and range of motion. Parkinson’s patients face challenges in each of these areas.

The prosecutor and boxer worked to share the program, and word spread about its effectiveness. Currently, the program is available in many cities throughout the nation.

“It’s a great program,” said Angell, who obtained her Rock Steady certification, along with Lockridge, in March. “It is forced and hard exercise, which is what is recommended to take patients outside of their normal activities.”

One of the skills many patients lack is being able to get up from a chair or floor. Angell said one of her clients is now able to rise from the floor, a skill she could not put into motion prior to the new exercises.

“The class lasts one-and-a-half hours,” Angell said. “It is very functional and involves hardcore boxing on bags. Also, we teach our clients to button buttons and zip up zippers.”

Angell said the class, which has grown to five, gives her clients confidence and camaraderie with others.

Another person who likes the Rock Steady Boxing program is Anniston neurologist Anthony Esposito.

“It’s a great therapeutic option for patients,” he said, “as well as a good way to talk to other patients and family members.”

Lockridge is also a cancer exercise specialist and a registered, licensed dietitian nutritionist.

“My dad passed away with Parkinson’s dementia,” she said, “and when Ann told me about this program, I thought teaching would be a great way to honor my dad.”

The two appreciate that the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama helped them find a grant to buy the equipment needed for the class, and they appreciate the Rock Steady Boxing organization, which provides its instructors with ideas, updated information, videos and pertinent documentation.

The class meets from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the YMCA, which is at 29 West 14th Street. 

The assessment and purchase of boxing gloves is $40. 

Afterward the class is $35 a month for non-YMCA members and $25 for members. Members engage in various activities during their 90 minutes, and they often play games, engage in sports and discuss issues they face.