A new program is fighting back against Parkinson’s disease.
Rock Steady Boxing, a workout program designed to reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, is being offered at Carlisle CrossFit, 306 W. Sunset Drive.
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in April 2016, Sondra Wolfe, founder of Central Penn Wellness, began commuting to Lancaster to participate in the program that adapts training designed by boxing professionals for Parkinson’s patients. The workout includes stretching, running, jumping rope, balancing and noncontact boxing.
“The first session really took my breath away. I had never really met anyone with Parkinson’s, and then one morning I’m in a gym with 25 of them, and all of us wearing boxing gloves,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe soon decided the program should be offered closer to home, so she teamed up with Angi Halvorson, the owner and head coach at Carlisle CrossFit. In addition to having a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, Halvorson is a CrossFit Level 2 coach and a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer.
Wolfe earned her Rock Steady Boxing certification at the program’s headquarters in June. Halvorson is working on finalizing her certification.
Although the class is designed for people with Parkinson’s disease, Wolfe said it is also an opportunity for caregivers, family members and people who do not have Parkinson’s to provide encouragement as corner coaches during the program to keep their loved ones motivated and engaged so they get the full benefit of the classes.
Sessions last an hour, and participants should attend two or three classes per week. Classes start at 10 a.m. Sept. 22, and will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 10 a.m. Saturdays. Class times may change based on what works best for participants.
Boxing gloves and wraps will be available for purchase.
Q. How did you find the Rock Steady Boxing program after your diagnosis?
A. Immediately after my diagnosis, I spent countless hours on the internet investigating anything related to Parkinson’s. In treating the symptoms and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s, you have to address your overall lifestyle, including diet and exercise. There are a number of exercise programs for Parkinson’s, but the boxing seems to be the most effective. My mother was actually the one who convinced me to try a RSB class in Lancaster. I was hooked after that.
Q. How specifically do the exercises help with Parkinson’s symptoms?
A. Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork, balance and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents. At RSB, Parkinson’s disease is the opponent, with Parkinson’s affecting the same motor areas for which boxers train. Various studies support that rigorous exercise, emphasizing gross motor movement, balance, core strength, rhythm and hand-eye coordination can favorably impact range of motion, flexibility, posture, gait and activities of daily living for people with Parkinson’s. In other words, people with Parkinson’s need to condition the same areas as boxers.
Q. What did it take to become certified as an RSB trainer?
A. In order to become a certified affiliate of RSB, I traveled to RSB’s corporate offices in Indianapolis and attended a full week of classroom and exercise training. A typical attendee is someone currently in the fitness industry so the class is structured to teach them about the disease. It is somewhat unusual for someone with PD to become certified. I was able to provide them with some insight from the disease perspective, which made the class interesting.
Q. How do you envision growing the program?
A. Improving quality of life for people with Parkinson’s is important. Parkinson’s disease is caused, in part, by inflammation in the body. Diet can play a major role in slowing progression of the disease by eating foods that are anti-inflammatory. Nutrition and body functions are extremely important to people with Parkinson’s. I would like to expand the program to include functional medicine coaching and nutritional education classes to form a more comprehensive foundation for Parkinson’s well-being. We will be creating a Parkinson’s disease support group as there is not one in the Carlisle area.
Q. What advice do you have for someone who suspects they may have Parkinson’s or has been recently diagnosed with the disease?
A. Your future has not been decided for you. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is just that, a diagnosis. It’s a label for a collection of symptoms, not your prognosis or a crystal-ball prediction of what your future holds. Your future is in your hands, no one else’s, and your attitude is everything.
Start exercising. Now. The evidence is strong. Regular exercise is neuroprotective (meaning it protects your brain) and promotes neurogenesis (meaning it helps develop new connections in your brain). So, challenge it (mentally and physically) to change it for the better. The absorption and utilization of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is lacking in Parkinson’s, is significantly boosted with a challenging and frequent exercise regime. The bottom line: You shouldn’t miss a day of exercise in the same way you wouldn’t miss a day of taking your medication. Yes, it’s that important.
Start making small changes. Observe your diet. Eat organic and close to nature. Meditate. Laugh. Prioritize sleep. This is where your brain heals and flushes out toxins. Treating your body like a temple will dramatically affect the way you move, think and feel.
Take action now, don’t wait. Medications will help your symptoms, but these are simply masking the dysfunctions in your system, not fixing them. Very similar to the way money compounds in your bank account, not changing your habits now will only compound your problems down the line. Starting today, put yourself first and make your health and future your top priority.