New boxing-based therapy seeks to knock out Parkinson’s

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A patient works with a trainer from Rock Steady Boxing. (Photo courtesy of Rock Steady Boxing)
A patient works with a trainer from Rock Steady Boxing. (Photos courtesy of Rock Steady Boxing)

Comber Physical Therapy in Williamsburg is introducing a new exercise program that uses boxing as a way to help knock out their symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Classes for Rock Steady Boxing Williamsburg, an alternative to traditional physical therapy, are slated to begin June 2.

Rock Steady Boxing Williamsburg will be the first clinical-based program of its kind in Virginia.

“The goal is to improve people’s lives and, hopefully, maintain those levels,” said Scott Brubaker, director of the neurological rehab program at Comber Physical Therapy.

“It’s a long-term approach to treatment,” Brubaker said, “whereas physical therapy is a short-term treatment.”

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative movement disorder that can cause the deterioration of motor skills, balance and speech. As such, those suffering from the disease may face difficulties sustaining their daily lifestyles.

Enter Rock Steady Boxing.

Utilizing exercises adapted from boxing drills that promote flexibility, strength and balance, the innovative program seeks to help patients manage their Parkinson’s symptoms and lead healthier lives.

The neuroscience behind Rock Steady Boxing is fairly simple.

According to the Rock Steady Boxing website, studies have shown a correlation between exercise and brain repair. Additionally, studies have shown that some “focused” exercises may actually slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.

Rock Steady Boxing will start in Williamsburg this June. (Photo courtesy of Rock Steady Boxing)
Rock Steady Boxing will start in Williamsburg this June.

The Rock Steady Boxing program is based upon “neuroprotection,” an attempt to inhibit the degenerative effects upon nerve cells of diseases such as Parkinson’s. The program does so via specific training methods aimed at improving a patient’s endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility and hand-eye coordination.

What started as a small-scale operation in 2006 has grown into a national brand with more than 90 affiliates in 30 states. The treatments also have begun to spread internationally, as programs are sprouting up in Italy and Canada.

Earlier this year, Brubaker traveled to the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters in Indianapolis to take a two-day certification course and bring the program back to Williamsburg.

While in Indianapolis, he learned the workings of the program by going through the training sessions experienced by Parkinson’s Disease patients.

For Brubaker, who has worked with more than 100 Parkinson’s patients within the past year in a more traditional physical therapy setting, seeing the Rock Steady Boxing program first-hand provided a new and encouraging perspective on treatment options.

Using traditional physical therapy methods, “getting intensity out of Parkinson’s is kind of hard to do,” he said. “The way the boxing comes through, you can put a set of boxing gloves on anybody and put them in front of a bag, and it’s just a natural instinct to hit that bag. The intensity is natural, and that’s the key.”

When Rock Steady Boxing Williamsburg goes live next month, Brubaker hopes to keep class sizes small to promote a family atmosphere.

Classes will range from 60 to 90 minutes long, he said, adding that they should provide patients a “fun and energetic” alternative to traditional physical therapy.

For more information about Rock Steady Boxing Williamsburg, click here.