Find what moves you and fight for it. Michelle Lao
Boxing coach Michelle Lao has written a guest column for Twitchy Woman about the benefits of boxing for PwP’s. She has also created a short film about Boxing for PD titled On The Ropes: Battling Parkinson’s Disease. Several of the boxers that I work out with are featured in the film. Click on the link below to watch.
It is incredibly ironic that a sport like boxing, often associated with being a contributor to Parkinson’s Disease, can also stop the advancement of it. There was always a strong correlation within the boxing community, that the constant blows to the head caused Parkinson’s. If the correlations are true, then the poison can also be the antidote. Boxing training places a heavy demand on the body which aides in re-establishing lost connections and building new ones within the neuronal circuitry. By learning a new sport, you are acquiring a new skill set that helps to increase neuroplasticity. With my PD fighters, I have seen countless mind body connections being made in boxing. These connections formed have slowed down the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. Here are the physical benefits that I have seen in my fighters:
- Restoring loss of function in fine motor skills and gross motor movements.
- Increase improvements in balance, coordination, gait, range of movement (flexibility), and proprioception (awareness of the body in terms of space)
- Decrease in the slowness of initiating movement, in muscle tone (rigidity), and in frequency of involuntary movements (tremors)
- Better sleep
Boxing can help improve cognition. Although boxing is a full body workout, it is also a cerebral sport. In my classes, boxing is used to sharpen the mind. My PD boxers have to be able to quickly adapt, predict, track and execute precision in movement and timing. When training, my boxers are constantly recalling combinations and patterns whether it’s by verbal or physical feedback. By engaging in these boxing drills, my boxers have shown significant cognitive improvements in the following areas:
- Increase in executive function, memory and thinking
- Improvement in verbal communication
- Decrease in cognitive delays
- Less confusion, more focus
I approach fitness more holistically. I believe that wellness creates a well-being. I find that my boxers have been able to find a community of people that they can relate to without having to explain the hurdles of their disease. Everyone is on the same playing field. PD boxing classes have helped my fighters manage their disease at an emotional level and the benefits are countless. Here are a few boxing benefits for emotional well-being:
- Empowerment. You own the disease; it doesn’t own you.
- Confidence. You know what your body can do for you and you can seize the day with it.
- Cathartic. You can release all your stresses by punching it out.
- Camaraderie. You gained a supportive network of friends who motivate and encourage you.
- Independence. You no longer need to rely on others for help as much.
- Improved quality of life. You are less depressed and can live a fuller life.
As much as boxing can be rewarding on a physical, cognitive, and emotional level, it also needs to be fun and engaging. If you do not find enjoyment in the movement program you participate in, then you will not benefit from it. Find what moves you and fight for it.