By Dr. Erin Bailey, PT with Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers
Lee Accavallo is the last one you’d want to fight in the boxing ring.
He trains vigorously four times per week, and the sound of impact from his powerful right hook echoes through the gym.
But Accavallo isn’t training to knock you out. Instead, the 67-year-old is hoping to knock out symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Accavallo is a member of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, which offers Rock Steady Boxing group classes designed by medical professionals to alleviate some symptoms impacting the lives of those living with Parkinson’s.
“These people in here are fighting for their life,” said Accavallo, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 and experiences nearly constant tremors on the left side of his body.
“These people that run this place change our life.”
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects an estimated 1 million Americans.
Symptoms typically develop slowly over the years, leading to a deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory functions. Individuals with Parkinson’s can experience tremors, fatigue, difficulty moving and sleeping, dizziness, anxiety, depression, loss of smell, constipation, a softer voice, an expressionless face, extremely poor posture and other conditions.
The specific cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, and there is no cure. However, individuals can manage the disease and take steps to slow its progression.
Benefits of Boxing
Boxers have a skill set that includes superb balance, hand-eye coordination and mental focus. They must be strong, yet agile and quick-moving, and establish a rhythm in the ring. Meanwhile, Parkinson’s can diminish each of those skills.
By forcing the body into a workout that requires maximum effort, speed, strength, balance and flexibility, programs like Rock Steady Boxing may be “neuroprotective,” thus working to delay the progression of symptoms.
Terry Johnson, 67, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014. An avid cyclist, Johnson bikes 30 miles daily or “only” 20 miles on days he attends a Rock Steady Boxing class. As a result, Johnson said the tremors he experiences in his left hand have not worsened over the years, and he hasn’t reported any new Parkinson’s symptoms.
“They say Rock Steady Boxing or any kind of physical activity will keep the symptoms under control,” Johnson said.
Rock Steady Boxing
Rock Steady Boxing offers a variety of classes not based on boxing ability, but rather the degree to which Parkinson’s is impacting participants’ daily activities.
Certified instructors lead Rock Steady Boxing classes, which begin with extensive warmup exercises before participants rotate through a series of stations. Participants throw jabs, hooks and uppercuts using both hands. Kickboxing is also part of the curriculum. Balance, flexibility, strength and endurance stations complete the rotation. All told, classes can last 90 minutes with only brief pauses for water breaks.
“I know that they’re working hard and they’re doing their best, and they’re motivating each other,” said Maggie Green, a wellness coordinator at FYZICAL. “Just seeing them progress is amazing.”
Rock Steady Boxing participants include men and women with varying levels of skills and athletic abilities. Some individuals have only recently received their Parkinson’s diagnosis, while others are experiencing severe symptoms and mobility challenges.
Although many are hesitant to attend traditional Parkinson’s support groups, Accavallo said Rock Steady Boxing is as much about the physical activity as it is the bonding opportunity.
“You’ll see quite a camaraderie in here; we’re a brotherhood and a sisterhood of Parkinson’s people,” Accavallo said. “It is very much a support group and an exercise class.”
About the Author
Dr. Erin Bailey, PT, is a regional director for FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, which has more than 400 locations in 45 states.
The coronavirus outbreak likely has led to a surge in sales for the supplement industry as proactive-minded individuals try to protect themselves against COVID-19 by boosting their immune system.
Indeed, vitamins A, B, C, E and zinc are proven to help the human body fight off illness and are readily available at the nearest drugstore. Health-conscious individuals may go the natural route and comb the produce section of their local supermarket for citrus, leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables.
Another way to boost the immune system isn’t so easy – exercise.
The immune system is your body’s natural defense mechanism that can flush away viruses, bacteria and other harmful impurities. When germs enter the body, they’ll stay until something pushes them out. The longer they linger, the greater likelihood that you’ll become sick.
Getting your immune system working on all cylinders and in optimal condition take a multifaceted approach to health care. A healthy and balanced diet, ample sleep, reduced stress levels, proper hygiene and exercise all work together to create a strong immune system.
The definition of “exercise” varies greatly, but for purposes of your immune system, individuals should consider low to moderate levels of exercise on a regular basis. White blood cells help fight off infections, so keeping a steady stream of cells pumping through the body amplifies the rate at which cells circulate the body and effectively kill viruses and bacteria.
The key to exercise as it relates to the immune system is not overdoing it. Extended, high-intensity workouts can actually have the opposite effect as many endurance athletes have actually shown depressed immunity.
Physical therapists can offer examples of immune-boosting, low to moderate exercises, which may include 20 to 30 minutes of bicycling or walking around the neighborhood, yoga, golf, tennis or simply stretching for an extended period.
The coronavirus seems to have reminded everyone to be vigilant about handwashing and proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing, and hopefully it also serves as a refresher that diet and exercise plays a huge role in our overall health.
As always, consult with a trained medical professional prior to making any substantial exercise, dietary or lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT, is president for company-owned operations at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, which has 427 locations in 45 states. For more information, please visit Fyzical.com.
This is the biggest question I get from
everyone. How do I get a 6-pack? Or just get rid of my “beer
belly” or “muffin top”?
It is going to take some work and
dedication, but it can be done. It is not too late!
Eat Clean! The
number one thing is to cut out the sugar! It’s not fat that makes
you fat, but sugar. Sodas, sweets, juices, candy, alcohol, etc. are
some of the obvious sugars. But if you eat too many carbs, like
pasta, bread, chips, these will also be converted to sugar if they
are not burned off. 80% of the time, try and eat clean!
increases our metabolism and will help burn off the extra fat. The
best form of exercise to do is high intensity workouts, which
skyrocket your metabolism and burn calories up to 48 hours after you
Strength Training! Try and incorporate some type of weight training, along with your
cardio workouts! This, too, will help gain lean muscle, which in
return will keep your metabolism burning that fat!
Do Core Exercises! Core exercises include working your abdominal area, as well as
your back muscles. One of the best core exercises is holding a
Hold the plank for at least 1 minute a total of 3-5 times. If it’s hard at first, work up to it. Start with 30 seconds and work your way up the minute.
Over the past decade there is more and
more research on how important it is for women over 40 to do
resistant training. Most women will hit the gym and just do cardio,
or, if they don’t go to a fitness center, will just walk or run
outside and focus on cardio, not weights.
The benefits of women that do weight training far outweigh the ones that just do cardio.
Here is why!
You will loose body fat!
You will be
much stronger without being bulky.
You will speed up your metabolism.
(Each pound of muscle you gain will help you burn up to 50 calories
more a day.)
You will decrease your risk of
osteoporosis. (Weight training will help build bone density which
will help fight osteoporosis.)
You will increase your strength to
help you with other activities such as golf, tennis, skiing, biking.
You will lose inches, which means
a smaller dress size! Muscle weighs more than fat, but it is dense.
So throw the scale away and go by how your clothes fit.
It will help lower your blood
pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Strength training lowers your blood pressure and gives your heart a
The best part is you can do it anytime,
anywhere! Just pick up a pair of dumbbells and start lifting!