Summerville boxing class helping people with Parkinson’s disease

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 8:06 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - For many people, when they first hear they have Parkinson’s Disease, it can be scary and worrisome. But, a group of people attending a boxing class called Rock Steady Boxing in Summerville, say it’s helping slow the progression of the disease.

Dennis Tianello has been coming to Rock Steady Boxing at Title Boxing in Nexton for two months now.

“My doctor, when I was first diagnosed and everything, I couldn’t walk to his exam room without touching the wall four or five times in the hallways,” Tianello said. “I went back to see him after doing this for a month and he says ‘Dennis, I watched you walk down the hall way. You didn’t even touch the wall.”

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder that affects motor movement. Through this boxing class, folks say they’ve seen their balance, coordination, and strength improve.

Annie Barra, the lead trainer at Title Boxing, says they recognize the disease is still there, but the program helps slows it down.

“They box and they move around and we challenge them to different things,” Barra said. “It’s a great group of people and it brings them together where they may have felt uncomfortable, we make it comfortable.”

Paul Werksman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about two months ago, even though he says he had many symptoms long before that. When he got his diagnosis, he started attending Rock Steady Boxing.

“Just being able to work it out and get better myself,” Werksman said. “I know I’ve lost my voice quit a bit. That’s why Don has us speaking very loudly.”

While it’s completely non-contact boxing, Bob Rodenkirk says one of his favorite things in the class is when he gets to go one-on-one with an instructor.

“They’ll get one of those belts on and they’ll say okay, give me everything you’ve got, don’t hold back,” Rodenkirk said. “And boom, boom, boom, boom.”

Rodenkirk says he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. He says this boxing class has helped him stabilize things and has helped him feel normal.

The instructor of the class, Donald Wright, says they do more than just boxing. The goal is to get these folks moving and exercising, which is something doctors tell many people with Parkinson’s to do.

“We have a bend, lift, stretch, voice, you toss balls, stack cones, lift, weights, get on the floor, planks, push ups, sit ups if you can,” Wright said.

Rodenkirk says he’s been surprised by the impacts he’s had from Rock Steady Boxing.

“My doctors told me, you’re not going to lose if you try boxing,” Rodenkirk said. “You may think it sounds stupid or I’m just gonna get pounded, but it’s not that at all.”

Many of the fighters added that Rock Steady Boxing has been a great way for them to build new friendships and realize they aren’t alone in their Parkinson’s journey.

The class is held three days a week. Title Boxing owner Chris Bowen says they are always accepting new members. He added that anyone with Parkinson’s Disease interested in joining can come watch a class before attending. More information on the gym can be found on their website.