Punching Back at Parkinson’s Disease - FOX10 News | WALA

Punching Back at Parkinson’s Disease

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Inside Wheeles Karate Academy in Gulf Shores, FOX10 News Anchor Lenise Ligon found 26 active boxers — and all from different backgrounds.

They weren’t trying to be the next Joe Lewis, rather they were fighting back against Parkinson's disease.

"There's no cure, but there's a lot of research going on and amazing people like Michael J. Fox who are advocates for our community,” said Gary Ellis, Parkinson’s disease patient.

More than 10 million people around the world suffer from Parkinson’s disease.  The neurological disorder robs patients of their balance, coordination, speech and causes tremors.

But not everyone is affected the same way.  Susie Glickman was diagnosed almost 10 years ago.  Prior to the diagnosis, she was a line-dancing teacher.  It’s something she can no longer do because she now has trouble with her balance.

"I'm one of the people who doesn't have the tremors if you didn't already notice...a lot of people do but I don't. I can do this hand this way...but when I start to do this hand it shakes,” Glickman told FOX10 News.

Until there's a cure exercise is the best thing Parkinson's patients can do for themselves.  While it won’t stop the disease from progressing, it will improve balance and it can prevent joint stiffening.

That's what the Rock Steady Boxing program is all about.

"Rock Steady boxing is a non-contact exercise program. It focuses on Parkinson's related symptoms to make them stronger,” said Chris Wheeles, owner of Wheeles Karate Academy in Gulf Shores.

Rock Steady Boxing aims to slow the progression of the disease through exercises studies have shown to be neuroprotective.  The program was founded in 2006 but it's just now being offered in Baldwin County.

Wheeles says when he was approached about starting the program at his gym, he just couldn't say no. 

Though a variety of drills, working on balance, hand-eye coordination, cognitive strength and even how to fall properly —  Ellis and Glickman aren’t letting Parkinson's define them; they're giving it a good uppercut!  And with a few laughs along the way too.

"If I go into a liquor store and people look at me funny I say I'm not drunk I have Parkinson’s,” laughs Glickman.

There's no cure yet, but there is hope.

"People like to say because in boxing there are corners, well in this corner there is hope,” Wheeles explains.

Support groups are helpful, and there are at least three in Baldwin County through Community Hospice in Fairhope, Foley, and Bay Minette.

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