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Rock Steady: How Ken Fights Back Against Parkinson’s

By |2024-05-10T08:42:41-04:00April 12th, 2018|Categories: Health A-Z, Patient Stories|Tags: , , , |

Rock Steady Boxing can help patients improve balance, strength, and agility.

Ken Springer goes to the gym twice every week to box his enemy. But he’s not fighting against any ordinary opponent—this one is a degenerative movement disorder that causes a deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech, and sensory function. It affects nearly one million people in the United States. To Ken, this is the disease that robs him of his ability to perform everyday tasks, such as carrying a cup of coffee without spilling it.

The 74-year-old Freehold resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran had always been active and strong, so being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago came as a blow. Never before had he needed help doing anything, but the effects of Parkinson’s that impede his mobility, balance, and fine motor skills make even the most mundane tasks—such as putting on socks or screwing in a light bulb—incredibly difficult. Ken has a tremor that shakes his hand when he’s trying to use the computer mouse.

“Sometimes it’s so bad that I throw the mouse across the room,” he admits.

Ken recently discovered that he can release his anger by hitting a heavy bag through Rock Steady Boxing, a unique program that empowers people with Parkinson’s to literally fight back. The concept was founded on research that suggests intense “forced” exercise is most beneficial for reducing, reversing, and delaying Parkinson’s symptoms. Many of the elements that boxers train to condition, including agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and overall strength, are among the biggest struggles for patients with Parkinson’s.

The program originally began in Indianapolis and has affiliate sites across the country. It was brought to CentraState by two physical therapists who recognized the need for this type of long-term training program for Parkinson’s management. Amanda Mangulabnan, PTA (pictured left of Ken Springer), and Shannon Lenahan, PT, DPT (right), work with volunteer fitness trainers to help patients perform a variety of exercises designed to strengthen the legs, arms, back, and core.

The rules are no contact to other people, so the only targets getting hit are the boxing bags. Ken has been attending classes since the program began in June, and he already feels that his balance has improved. But the benefits extend beyond the physical—he finally is getting relief from his anxieties and frustrations.

“What I like about the program is that it’s a marriage of physical fitness and therapy, both of which push you to become better,” Ken says. “It helps me not only with balance, but also with building muscle and confidence.”

Lenahan said the classes also create comradery among people who are dealing with all levels of Parkinson’s.

“Rock Steady Boxing gives people with Parkinson’s the motivation to continue fighting,” she says. “At the same time, we’re working to improve their quality of life.”

For more information about the Rock Steady program, call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

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