New ‘Rock Steady Boxing’ program fights Parkinson’s Disease better than medication

Jens Howe, a prephysical therapy student at SUU, recently became certified through the Rock Steady Boxing international organization to integrate noncontact boxing techniques to help people with Parkinson's Disease, photo location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southwest Parkinson's Disease Fitness Alliance, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Fifty years ago, scientists believed a cure for Parkinson’s Disease would be found in five years. Yet this year, the complexity of this disease will result in more than 50,000 new diagnoses in the U.S. alone, resulting in nearly 1 million people nationally with the disease.

Participant with Parkinson’s Disease uses noncontact boxing to battle symptoms, Cedar City, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Fitness Alliance, St. George News / Cedar City News

Fortunately for Southern Utah, Rock Steady Boxing, an international program using noncontact boxing to combat the effects of Parkinson’s, has found a new home in Cedar City.

A boxing gym seems like the last place one would find someone with Parkinson’s Disease, yet boxing-inspired exercise programs are growing in popularity with men and women of all abilities.

Research shows these types of exercises slow the progression of Parkinson’s, thus enhancing walking ability, flexibility, balance and overall well-being. To date, no medication has been able to do this.

Dan Dail, past chair of agriculture and nutrition science at Southern Utah University, battles Parkinson’s daily and is leading the initiative in incorporating noncontact boxing exercises in a local setting.

Dail has teamed up with students and staff from the Southern Utah University Rural Health Scholars program to create Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Fitness Alliance in Cedar City.

Initially, the alliance will host daily fitness courses involving noncontact boxing and the Lee Silverman Voice Technique-based physical therapy program to assist those battling the disease. Future courses will include yoga and stationary cycling, as well lectures on topics like nutrition.

Participant with Parkinson’s Disease uses noncontact boxing to battle symptoms, Cedar City, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of Southwest Parkinson’s Disease Fitness Alliance, St. George News / Cedar City News

One of the most compelling reasons for starting a program like Southwest Parkinson’s Fitness Alliance locally is access to innovative therapies such as LSVT and Rock Steady Boxing. Dail said he has high hopes for the new fitness alliance.

“Too often programs like Rock Steady Boxing for people with PD are denied in the more rural areas of the state,” he said. “Perhaps we can work to remedy that.”

People with Parkinson’s often have restrictions on their own driving, Dail said, or as the disease progresses, they must stop driving and depend entirely on others. Most do not have the ability or means to travel outside their own community regularly, and currently the closest facility is more than 200 miles away in Lehi. Therefore, Dail said he thinks this program will serve a great need in the local health care community.

Jens Howe, a prephysical therapy student at SUU, recently became certified through the Rock Steady Boxing international organization to integrate noncontact boxing techniques into this alliance. Howe will use this knowledge to both assist local individuals with Parkinson’s to live better lives and to enhance his future career in health care.

The opening of the Southwest Parkinson Disease Fitness Alliance is planned for September 2017 at Snap Fitness, located on Main Street in Cedar City. For more information on the alliance, go to their website or call Dan Dail at 435-463-7285.

Rural Health Scholars volunteers, along with local physical therapists and fitness instructors, will be present to assist participants through structured, purposeful and fun group classes tailored specifically to meet the needs of people with Parkinson’s Disease. Since so many people know someone affected by Parkinson’s, additional assistance is needed. To find out how you might be able to assist, contact Karen Ganss at 435-865-8660.

The Rural Health Scholars Program, of which Howe is a member, is available at Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, Snow College and Utah State University-Eastern in Price. Through a partnership with the University of Utah School of Medicine, this program assists students in becoming successful applicants to medical, nursing, podiatry, dental, pharmacy and other health professions programs. For more information about the Utah Center for Rural Health programs, contact Karen Ganss at 435-865-8660.

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1 Comment

  • Henry August 28, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Any relief that can help people afflicted with Parkinson’s is great. What a horrible disease.

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