By Sam Rothman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – For many people, a Parkinson’s diagnosis could leave them hopeless. With no cure, Parkinson’s is one of those diseases that turns one’s world upside down. But, Rock Steady Boxing in Syracuse is proving that the disease doesn’t have to.
“One of the most profound things is a boxer saying to me, ‘You’ve given me my life back,'” said Patrick Van Beveren, who is the owner of Rock Steady Boxing in Syracuse.
Van Beveren is helping people get their lives back one punch at a time through his boxing classes that are catered specifically to individuals fighting Parkinson’s disease. While bike riding and dancing have been helpful treatments for people with the disease, he believes boxing can have a much greater impact.
“Your strength is better,” Van Beveren said. “Your power’s better. Your hand-eye coordination is better. Your foot agility is better. Your ability to strategize is better. Your cognitive function is better. It really is a comprehensive program that addresses a lot of different areas.”
This comprehensive program has helped many boxers, such as Tom Duquette. Duquette was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in September 2017. After some research, he found out about Rock Steady Boxing and now believes boxing is the perfect treatment for the disease.
“It kind of reprograms the circuitry in your brain as to specific movements and timing, which is helpful,” Duquette said.
Duquette said he is now more flexible and has better balance. But, surprisingly, it’s not just the boxing that has helped. He said there are other simple workouts, such as stretching and abdominal exercises, that have gone a long way.
“I joke with Patrick about how I said I thought I was signing up for a class where I was going to learn how to hit things, and you know, he has me doing all this core strengthening and all this other stuff, which is important,” said Duquette. “It helps though because that’s really what I need more than anything.”
Another thing that Parkinson’s patients need is a little hope. When many people find out their diagnosis, Van Beveren said they often feel like they’re at the end of their road. He said boxing not only helps the body, but also the mind.
“If you could imagine a doctor saying to you, ‘You have Parkinson’s and there is no cure for it. You’re going to get worse.’ It’s pretty depressing, and they lose hope,” said Van Beveren. “I think that’s part of what boxing does for them. They come in the gym, they look, and they see people moving pretty well and laughing. They really think there is something after the diagnosis of Parkinson’s.”
Unfortunately, the number of Parkinson’s patients in the United States is only growing. There are about 1.5 million Americans who suffer from the disease, and by 2040, that number is estimated to double. Although one punch can’t knock out Parkinson’s entirely, one jab can prevent the progression of the disease.