A Testament to What Rock Steady Boxing Can Do to Combat Parkinson’s Disease
Member Spotlight: Allan Lowe
He was shocked when he found out. Allan Lowe was walking into the office of his wife’s doctor, to support her during a consultation, when the doctor asked Allan, “How long have you had Parkinson’s?” It made him stop dead in his tracks. “I don’t have Parkinson’s,” Allan replied.
The doctor noticed Allan was walking in a shuffle pattern – an early sign of the disease. After being tested, Allan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 77.
Approximately 1 million Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, with 60,000 new cases emerging each year. Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. Symptoms include tremors, slowed movement, impaired posture/balance and slurred speech. Although there is no cure yet, there are treatment options that range from medication and surgery to exercise. In fact, there is growing consensus that exercise is not just ‘healthy’ for those with Parkinson’s Disease; it is a “vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and daily living activities,” per the National Parkinson’s Foundation.
Initially, to combat the progression that Parkinson’s takes, Allan was doing exercises prescribed by his doctors daily, in addition to medication. But after reading an article about the benefits of boxing for people with Parkinson’s, he immediately began researching places that offered boxing classes near his home and discovered Champion Boxing & Fitness.
Allan Lowe was never a boxer and certainly wouldn’t have imagined picking up boxing skills at the age of 81 but he signed up and participated in the first ever Rock Steady Boxing class at Champion in 2016, one of only two people in the class. Now the class has six boxers and not only is he the oldest in his class, at the age of 83, he is taking the more difficult of the two classes offered.
Rock Steady involves intense exercise that improves speed, strength, balance and flexibility. It’s a non-contact boxing-inspired fitness routine specifically intended to improve the ability of Parkinson’s patients to live independent lives. Boxing works by moving the body in all planes of motion while continuously changing the routine as the workout progresses. Providing encouragement through a ‘tough love’ approach, the classes focuses on flexibility, strengthening of arms, legs, neck and shoulders, mobility and coordination. It wouldn’t seem like a fitness program that someone in their 80s would be interested it, but Allan embraces it with passion and his efforts have paid off.
In the two years since Allan discovered Champion Boxing & Fitness and started the Rock Steady program, he has noticed a positive change in his symptoms. For one thing, his balance and posture have improved significantly.
“I know this,” he says, “because my doctors point it out, saying how good my posture has stayed. Rock Steady has drastically slowed down the advancement of my disease.”
Even on a social level, Rock Steady has been enormously helpful. By being around others at the gym who are struggling with the same disease, Allan knows he is not alone in his fight. He has the support of his instructors and the camaraderie of his classmates.
Allan admits that Rocky Steady isn’t the “end all be all” treatment for Parkinson’s. He still takes medication and does his daily routine of exercises, but he strongly suggests other patients also combine daily exercises with the Rock Steady classes as he has done.
Rock Steady’s unique focus on attacking Parkinson’s at its vulnerable neurological points, focusing on overall fitness, strength training, reaction time and balance makes it an invaluable addition to any treatment plan for the disease. And as Allan has proven, you’re never too old to start the fight.