Kicking And Punching To Beat Parkinson's Disease

April 13, 2017
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Iris was there to punch and kick.

She tied on a pair of pink boxing gloves, and within minutes, she built up a sweat while pummeling away to the beat of techno music.

“The punching is great!” Iris later said during a short break. “It stops the frustration when you punch and say ‘beat Parkinson’s’ because that’s what you want to do.”

Iris is one of 17 students who attend a kickboxing class provided at Memorial Fitness Centers for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

The 45-minute classes are free and open to patients and caregivers, thanks to grants from the National Parkinson Foundation and The Retirement Research Foundation.

Instructor Jeri Beaucaire said the classes are designed to increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin hormones in the brain, which helps patients with their balance and coordination.

“It’s more than a workout,” she said. “It gets people moving, and the punching and kicking helps them let out their aggression. It’s beneficial in every way.” 

The weekly classes start with brief stretches and cardio warm ups. Jeri then leads the class in brain exercises designed to separately work the left and right sides, as well as strength training and choreography, she said.

The rest of the class focuses on kicking and punching large dummies and taking turns jabbing a pair of gloves held up by Jeri.

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The kickboxing class is an expansion of Memorial Fitness Center’s Parkinson’s Exercise Program. The exercise program began in 2014 with a dance class. Power chair and strength training classes are also available and are open to patients of all fitness levels.

Classes are available at the Memorial Regional Hospital Fitness Center in Hollywood and at Memorial Hospital West Fitness center in Pembroke Pines.

Tony, one of the kickboxing students at Memorial Hospital West, said he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in early 2017. He heard about the class and decided to check it out in hopes it would help him control his shaking.

“I feel better; it makes me feel more energetic,” he said during a recent class. “I am anxious to come to the class now all the time. If you don’t miss, you really start seeing the difference.”

Jim, who has been coming to the kickboxing class since its inception, said one of the biggest benefits is the camaraderie he has built with the other patients like him.

“It’s fun to be with others you can relate to,” he said. “We’re a group now and we support each other.”

EDITOR'S NOTE

  • No RSVP is required to attend the classes and they are free and open to patients and caregivers.
  • Membership at the fitness centers is not required.
  • Patients are asked to wear comfortable clothing, bring a pair of boxing gloves and water.
  • See the class calendar.