Roving Reporter | "Punching at Parkinson's: Rock Steady Boxing Helps Local Patient" Text and Photos by Jeanette Larson

Gloving up

Parkinson's disease is a "chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects one in 100 people over age 60," according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, but some people are diagnosed at 40 or even younger. The disease causes the loss of dopamine, which then causes neurons to fire without normal control. This leaves patients less able to control movement. The cause is unknown, "although research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors." In addition to medications that help control or reduce symptoms, exercise and moving are the best ways to combat the effects of Parkinson's.

Rock Steady Boxing is non-contact boxing, founded in 2006 in Indianapolis, that helps combat symptoms of the disease by reinforcing movement, muscle development, stretching, coordination, and balance, as well as combating stiffness. People of all ages and abilities can benefit, regardless of their level of Parkinson's. The Coastal Bend Parkinson's Support Group raised funds through their annual Paddle for Parkinson's event to send local boxing coach Benjamin Flores to Indianapolis to get certification to provide Rock Steady Boxing classes at the Corpus Christi Boxing Club.

Coach Ben Flores explains the routines

A year ago, local resident, Jim Larson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2015, read about the national program. Excited that there would finally be a local program, he attended the first meeting at Corpus Christi Boxing Club on September 16 and has since regularly attended the classes. Jim had already found that exercise programs like water walking at the Community Aquatic Center and Tai Chi classes at Rockport Fitness Center had helped but wanted to try boxing. Studies have shown that while all exercise is good, boxing includes exercise that is neuro-protective, the type of exercise that may actually slow the progression of Parkinson's.  "Parkinson’s causes a loss in many of the same elements that boxers condition to improve," according to the Rock Steady Boxing organizations. Based on their research and Flores' own experience with Parkinson's patients, the program can reverse, reduce, and even delay symptoms, allowing for better quality of life. Jim pointed out that, "A good workout builds confidence and helps with coordination, balance, and strength." Jim has taken the boxing nickname, LuteFist. 

Heavy bag work
The program is open to anyone with Parkinson's and their "corner man" (the partner who helps the boxer glove up, encourages them to keep going, and provides water on breaks). Monthly fees for the class are expected to be about $20 a month and will be paid through the Support Group.  90-minute sessions are currently held on Tuesday and Thursday at noon, although more classes will be added later. Corpus Christi Boxing Club is located at 5540 Saratoga Blvd #104, Corpus Christi (the corner of Staples and Saratoga).

The Coastal Bend Parkinson's Support Group meets on the third Saturday of the month at Mirador Retirement Community, 5857 Timbergate Drive, Corpus Christi (drive around to the back entrance). Meetings are free and open to all. For more information on the support group, visit or call 361-949-7719.
Note: Jim Larson is the husband of author Jeanette Larson. 

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