Local program giving Parkinson's patients hope

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Parkinson's Disease is a tough diagnosis; body control slowly slips away and there is no cure. Rock Steady Boxing is helping people fight back.

Dennis McMullen looks like a veteran of the gym when he gets a chance to spar. The Westboro resident does non-contact boxing as part of this therapy. He has Parkinson's Disease and at one point, could barely lift his left arm.

"It slowly go more noticeable," said McMullen.

In an effort to slow the progression of a neurological condition that has no cure, McMullen enrolled in Rock Steady Boxing, a vigorous workout that mimics the way boxers train.

"Boxers have issues with balance, or they try to get better balance either in your stance, the way you move around the ring, the way you throw a punch or come back from throwing that punch. Everything is about balance, everything is about movement," said Instructor Todd Paris.

That means participants work on their gate, their balance, and endurance. It also means they do a lot of hitting.

"You hit a bag, it helps with the tremors. You move around the ring, it helps with confidence," said Paris.

The testimonials in Brighton, and around the country, are glowing.

"I have more energy, more stamina, and I just feel better," said Andrew Glanz.

Dr. Diana Apetauerova, a neurologist at Lahey Hospital, explains what science tells us.

"Exercise in general in Parkinson's patients is absolutely crucial, and it's not just any exercise, it's what you call aerobic exercise," said Apetauerova.

She'd like to see more studies on Rock Steady Boxing, and says patients shouldn't forgo traditional treatments, but sees why this could be helpful.

"Now, they are empowered and they are fighting with the gloves against the disease, so there is an emotional component, which I think is very important," said Apetauerova.

Paris is a believer. He says he sees the results every day.

It's estimated a million Americans are living with Parkinson's and that 60,000 people are diagnosed each year.

To find a gym that offers this program, click here.