Parkinson’s Boxing Therapy for Senior Citizens

28 May 2020 Assisted Living

Parkinson’s disease can be one of the most challenging disorders for people to deal with. But there are ways to combat it, with Parkinson’s boxing therapy among the things that affected patients can try.

Before diving deeper into how boxing can be helpful to people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s worth taking the time to learn more about the disorder first.

This article will shine a brighter light on the complexities of the disease, what it does to people, and how those affected can continue to enjoy their lives as they deal with it.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes a variety of physical side effects.

It starts slow, so much so, you may not even be aware there is a problem. Someone at home may start to notice that your face has become a little less expressive, but they may shrug it off, thinking that you’ve had a bad day.

Over time, though, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease will be almost impossible to ignore, especially if you didn’t seek treatment.

The Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

According to the National Institute on Aging, four main symptoms accompany Parkinson’s disease. Let’s talk more about them below.

Impaired Balance

The first of the four main symptoms are impaired balance. While walking may have been a simple task before, it may become significantly more difficult once the effects of the disease have intensified.

Since people diagnosed with the disease are more prone to falling, it may be advisable for them to use walkers and other helpful items to keep them upright as they move around.

Rigid Muscles

As you continue to live with Parkinson’s disease, you may start to notice that your muscles are starting to stiffen. It’s bad enough that stiff muscles can cause plenty of pain and discomfort, but that may not even be their worst side effects.  Once your muscles stiffen up, your range of motion may also become severely compromised.

Slower Movement

Beyond developing a tendency to lose your balance, Parkinson’s disease can also hamper your movement because it slows you down significantly.

It may become harder for people with the disease to stride normally, and so they must settle for shorter steps. There may also be times where you drag your feet as you move.

Some people with the disease prefer to use mobility scooters so they can continue to get around even as their physical movements get slower.


Tremors also often accompany a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Much like the other symptoms of the disease, the tremors can go easily unnoticed for a while.

The tremors may start small, manifesting in the form of you rubbing your thumb and forefinger together. That’s a motion the Mayo Clinic describes as a pill-rolling tremor.

Eventually, though, the tremors may start to affect your fingers and your entire hand. The tremors may also continue to take place even when you are resting your hand.

Other Notable Symptoms

Beyond the main symptoms of the disease detailed above, patients may also experience additional physical issues. These include encountering difficulty while trying to talk, chew, or swallow. Urinary troubles and sleep problems may also plague those with the disorder.

Parkinson’s disease can cause depression.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease starts to develop in people when certain neurons in their brain start to die. These neurons are in the part of a person’s brain that governs movement.

While healthy, those neurons are responsible for producing dopamine regularly. When those neurons die, that can lead to a dopamine deficiency, and that in turn leads to your brain becoming incapable of functioning normally.

Those abnormalities in your brain functions are what give birth to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

So, what causes those neurons to die off? That’s what researchers are still trying to figure out, and thus far, they’ve yet to come up with an answer.

What they do know, though, is that there are certain indicators of Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have honed in on substances known as Lewy bodies as they believe that these can potentially explain why those neurons die.

It’s also possible that your genetics and toxins in your environment could bring about the onset of Parkinson’s disease, but they only become factors in a few cases.

How Parkinson’s Disease Is Treated

Preventing a disease is always preferable to curing it, but as you might have already guessed, the former is proving quite tricky when it comes to Parkinson’s disease. Since researchers don’t even have a firm grasp on what is causing the disease in the first place, it should come as no surprise that preventative measures remain as elusive.

In the absence of preventative recommendations, the best they can do right now for diagnosed patients is to offer them different forms of treatment.

There are forms of medication that patients can take to help them manage their condition. These forms of medication include carbidopa and levodopa.

The levodopa is helpful because it helps the remaining neurons produce more dopamine, while the carbidopa is necessary for mitigating the symptoms of levodopa.

Doctors may also prescribe other types of medication that more specifically address the main symptoms linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Some medical professionals may recommend certain types of therapy as they are similarly helpful when it comes to managing the symptoms of the disorder.

Similar to other diseases, adopting a healthy diet and getting regular exercise will help patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Exercise, in particular, can yield some remarkable benefits for diagnosed individuals.

Why Exercise Is Helpful to Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

Patients who have Parkinson’s disease can get a great return on their time investment if they decide to exercise more. Exercise can be helpful in a variety of ways.

First off, this article from the Michael J. Fox Foundation cites the helpfulness of exercise when it comes to slowing down the progression of the disease. The exact explanation for why exercise appears to slow down the disease remains difficult to pin down, but there is a belief that it may have something to do with keeping neurons healthy.

The severity of certain symptoms can also improve, which is also helpful in the fight against the disease.

On top of the physical benefits people can obtain, exercising can also be good for patients because it enables them to take a more active role in their treatment which can improve their level of satisfaction in terms of the care they’re receiving, according to this study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website.

Boxing as a Beneficial Form of Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Now that you know more about the benefits of exercising for individuals who have Parkinson’s disease, you may be wondering if there is a specific type of physical activity they should try.

That taking up boxing is a good idea for diagnosed patients because of the benefits it can offer.

Improved Coordination and Balance

We talked earlier about the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and that one of them is impaired balance. It’s a symptom that you can address with the aid of boxing.

Remember that a key element of boxing training is perfecting your footwork. You need to learn how to be light on your feet so you can fire off punches while evading them yourself.

Senior citizens and other patients taking up boxing for Parkinson’s disease don’t need to worry about punches coming their way, but they can still use those footwork lessons to significantly improve their balance and their coordination.

You can also work on your coordination whenever you work on the speed bag since hitting that small target consistently requires real skill and concentration.

Full Body Strengthening

Your hands are not the only parts of your body that will get a workout from boxing. One of the best things about boxing is that it engages your entire body. Your feet, legs, hips, shoulders, arms, and hands need to work in unison to punch properly.

Other forms of exercise can similarly work to engage your entire body, but they aren’t always as accessible as boxing.

Cognitive Functions Improved

Boxing is not only about getting your body into shape. Your brain can also get a good workout following your training session.

During a boxing session, trainers will ask the boxers to launch specific punches in a specific order. It’s up to the trainee to get that sequence right order to land a proper combo.

Some trainers also challenge boxers by giving them multiple targets to look at but only one to hit.

Asking the brain to work that quickly is a good thing, and it can help sharpen senses that may have dulled with age.

Opportunities to Interact with Others

You cannot lose sight of how beneficial boxing training is for people with Parkinson’s disease in terms of how it allows them to connect with people.

Once the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease start to surface, they can discourage people from interacting with others. Some who are dealing with the disease may feel self-conscious and become uncomfortable because of that.

When you’re training, you don’t need to worry about your symptoms. Your trainer is aware of your condition, and he/she won’t mind adjusting to make you more comfortable. Plus, you may also train in the company of other patients, and that will help too.

How Boxing Is Made More Beneficial to People with Parkinson’s Disease

An important thing to note about the type of boxing regimen patients undergo is that it varies significantly from traditional training.

This article from Brain & Life details the modified boxing regimen patients undergo quite well.

It starts with evaluating the trainees themselves. Instructors will look at the physical abilities of a specific trainee and put him/her into a group of similarly skilled participants. Doing that allows the trainees to progress at their own pace without feeling pressured by the people around them.

The workouts are carefully put together so that they cater to the strengths of the participants. If any participants need a bit of extra help, the instructors can provide that.

While the focus is on the glovework, it is important to point out that these boxing classes feature other aspects as well. Patients perform warm-up exercises to get into gear, and trainees may sometimes also perform additional drills such as jumping rope or traversing wooden beams placed on the ground.

As mentioned earlier, the type of boxing training Parkinson’s disease patients get is comprehensive. Given how wide-ranging the symptoms of the disorder can be, it only makes sense to combat it with a treatment program that is also multi-faceted.

These programs provide continuous challenges for the participants. If a trainee has the basics down, an instructor may ask him/her to perform more complicated exercises the next time around.

Making the exercises more challenging the longer they go is essential because it keeps the trainees motivated. Those who stick to the program and dedicate themselves will receive a sense of accomplishment.

One last thing worth noting is that the trainers in charge of implementing these boxing programs are not your typical coaches. Many of them have previous experience working with Parkinson’s disease patients, and that allows them to create more effective workout routines.

It’s a mistake to assume that Parkinson’s disease means that you should say goodbye to an active lifestyle. If anything, staying active may be even more important moving forward.

For those looking for a good workout regimen, boxing is certainly worth a try.

If you want to further improve the condition of an elderly loved one with Parkinson’s disease, Bethany Homes can help. Call Bethany Homes now to secure better care for your older relatives.