A recent study conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU) and the Perron Institute with boxer Rai Fazio showed that non-competitive sports can be a good way for people with this disease.
In collaboration with the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the University of Western Australia, ECU researchers provided three one-hour training sessions to 10 participants with early stage Parkinson’s disease.
sessions per week, over 15 weeks.
The group fought with a Fightmaster boxing unit, a commercially available device with 11 cushioned punch targets attached to the platform rather than the opponent.
The program was divided into three parts: an introduction to boxing, a high-intensity component and a cognitively challenging segment.
Study participants were expected to complete two- to three-minute “rounds” of hitting different pads in different sequences, then rest for no more than two minutes.
Dr. from ECU’s Sensitive Health Center. Travis Cruickshank said that although there is little evidence for its use, boxing has gained popularity among people living with PD.
“So what we did was take a really hard look at how feasible a boxing program is for people with PD, which hasn’t been done in the past,” he said.
“Throughout the intervention, we used heart rate monitors so that we could see the cardiovascular burden on our participants, and we used scales that measured their perceived stress levels, both physically and cognitively.”
“We have a lot of evidence to say it’s safe, it’s well tolerated, and people enjoy it.”
Discover the benefits of boxing for Parkinson’s disease
After the 15-week program, nine out of 10 participants had an improved score on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, which is used to measure the progression and severity of PD. The group also reported reduced fatigue and improved sleep.
Dr. Cruickshank said group boxing has the benefit of combining many aspects of therapy, such as exercise, cognitive stimulation and socialization, into a single workout.
“In the past, I’ve worked with people with Parkinson’s and we’d work out in the gym, then there would be a separate computerized cognitive training program and another event for the social aspect,” she said.
“With boxing, we can bring it all together and deliver it really quickly, which makes it more enjoyable and people will stick with it.”
Boxing May Be a Possible Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
Dr. Cruickshank said a key aspect of the study was establishing boxing as an option that could be prescribed to people living with early-stage PD. Despite the high intensity of many of the exercises, participants reported no increase in muscle soreness from the program, nor the serious injuries expected for people with PD.
Furthermore, this means that each individual completed the 15-week program, with almost 97% completing the training sessions.
“In fact, after we finished the study, everyone chose to buy a Fightmaster and install it in their home,” Dr. Cruickshank said.
“So in the future, programs like this could be done in people’s homes or in clinics, it could be self-administered, it could be monitored in a clinic, or it could be done remotely via telehealth so that people in outlying areas could still have access.”
“In research, we know that camaraderie and positive relationships among members are also motivating.”
“These social benefits cannot be overestimated, especially given the link between socialization and emotional well-being.”
Taking the fight further
Dr. Cruickshank said the next step is to test the therapeutic effectiveness of boxing in a larger group of people living with various stages of PD.
He says that this includes Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and traumatic brain injury, among others. said he believes it may be effective in other neurological conditions such as
“In addition to these neurological conditions, people with cancer may see benefits, particularly for bone mineral content and muscle mass affected by the treatments,” he said.
“The ability to tailor training to someone’s individual situation is really important.”
Dr. Cruickshank said he hopes boxing programs will soon be implemented to treat PD in the not-too-distant future.
“Now we know it’s safe, it’s well tolerated, and people enjoy it,” he said.
“Once we establish therapeutic efficacy with larger trials, it will be ready for use in the community.”
- FIGHT-PD: Feasibility Study of Intermittent Boxing Exercises for Parkinson’s Disease – (https:pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37071916/)