Boxing club helps combat Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's patients fight the disease with boxing classes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Three days a week, you’ll find about a dozen people at CORE Combat Sports in Louisville training for a fight. The fight, however, is not against another boxer, but with a disease.

“Parkinson's wants to seize you up. It just wants to crumple you in,” Holly Cooper said.

Cooper was diagnosed in August 2015.

“I only had a thumb tremor at that point and was just floored when I got the diagnosis,” Cooper said.

Three times a week, you’ll find her tightening the straps of her boxing gloves to continue the fight against the disease.

“[Parkinson’s is] going to be with us forever," Cooper said. “I mean we know this is going to be a very long fight. And if you don’t get moving now, it’s just going to be harder later.”

Cooper has been going to the class for about two and a half years.

“It gives me a reason to tie my shoes in the morning and whip a tiger in the afternoon,” Cooper laughed.

She said it’s helped her in so many ways, including sleeping better and giving her more energy. It has also given her a community who understands what she’s going through.

”It’s an extension of our family,” Cooper said. “These guys know more about Parkinson’s and how it affects me than my own family does."

Bill Reed has been working out at the class for about four years. He, too, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in November 2011.

“Parkinson's is the gift that keeps taking. And this class helps delay what it takes,” Reed said.

The class meets for about an hour and a half, starting with small warm ups of tossing a tennis ball around to each other to help with hand-eye coordination.

“I’ve seen people who weren’t able to reach down touch the floor, or be coordinated with balls or hit the bag,” Coach Abdul Jarvis said. “I’ve seen them get more proficient in that.”

Jarvis leads the Rock Steady Boxing class at CORE Combat Sports, designed to help Parkinson’s patients with their coordination and overall well-being.

“Nobody is more consistent than these people," Jarvis said. "These people are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

Jarvis also teaches boxing for kids and professional boxers. He said there’s nothing like his class full of Parkinson’s patients.

“They really, really love doing this,” Jarvis said. “Nobody is making them do it.”

He and another coach, Max, help them stretch, put the gloves on and throw punches.

“It's been a proven fact that exercise helps improve life and stave off the disease for a period of time,” Jarvis said.

Reed believes it’s working.

“I notice a boost in energy when I’m done. It hasn’t hurt me that’s for sure,” Reed laughed.

Those with Parkinson’s are not in the fight alone. Many family members also go to the classes to join in on the workout and encourage their loved ones. Cooper said each of her family members has joined her for at least a class, and her husband is there every single one.

For more information about Rock Steady Boxing, or to find a class, click or tap here.

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