CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — ESPN named boxing the toughest sport in the world, so why is a Central Point gym using it to help people with Parkinson’s disease?
Boxing may not seem like the best choice when it comes to people living with Parkinson’s, but what many may not realize is these classes can delay, reduce or even reverse the symptoms of the disease.
“A couple of people that we’re familiar with Parkinson’s were saying, does Gail have Parkinson’s disease?” Parkinson’s boxer, Gail Summerville said.
Summerville is living with Parkinson’s disease.
“A couple of years ago I started having symptoms that were unusual, I felt like I was walking kind of funny like a 98-year-old,” she said. “At that time it wasn’t diagnosed, but a year later it was in February when I felt like the thinking was weird, like real confusion.”
Her story isn’t much different than some of the other Parkinson’s Boxers at Higs Gym in Central Point.
“It first started with hand tremors I think that’s where everybody starts, and then I got in to see the doctor and they confirmed it was Parkinson’s,” Parkinson’s Boxer, Coy James said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms can start slow sometimes creating a barely noticeable tremor in one hand or another part of your body.
“Other people had noticed the difference in my face,” Summerville said.
The hope is that by adding in boxing to their routines those symptoms will either decrease or be held off.
“I think a lot of us are here for that maintaining thing to keep it from getting worse,” James said.
At Higs Gym participants get regular exercise with the Rock Steady Program. It includes stretching, jogging, jumping rope, push-ups and of course non-contact boxing. It’s all led by certified trainers and coached fully geared to people living with Parkinson’s.
“A lot of the days have felt normal all day, and that’s huge,” Summerville said.
“Overall I think it’s better for me it keeps my energy up, keeps me flexible,” James said.
“My wife says I do a lot better, I have a little better dexterity and interact a little better,” Parkinson’s boxer, Jesse Lowder said.
Higs gym works with people like Gail, Coy and Jesse to get them back on their feet.
“This program is here to improve their daily life functioning getting your shoes on not being in so much pain and actually having the energy to do things,” Higs Gym manager, Kim Adams said.
While Parkinson’s causes a loss in many of the same skills and functions that boxers condition and train. The hope is that through boxing, these boxers will get their life back.
“I get feedback from people on how I look at how I sound, even my family long distance over the phone, they can tell the difference,” Summerville said.
If you would like to get involved with Rock Steady Boxing at Higs Gym or get more information, you can visit their website https://www.higsgym.com/rock-steady.
Devin Gooden graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism.
She has spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Business Management.
When she’s not reporting, Devin practices yoga, reads thriller novels and loudly cheers for her beloved Georgia Bulldawgs.