Rock Steady Boxing looks to KO Parkinson’s

BRYMCA, Lincoln Health offer new treatment for those battling neurological disorders
Posted:  Tuesday, June 5, 2018 - 7:30am
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Boothbay Region YMCA and LincolnHealth want to give Parkinson’s disease patients a fighting chance against the debilitating neurological disease. The two local organizations are sponsoring a 10-week boxing-based program designed to slow down the onset of Parkinson’s and other neurological disease symptoms. Rock Steady Boxing begins June 12 with BRYMCA personal trainer Nicholas Rippy leading the twice weekly classes. The local Y and LincolnHealth are sponsoring Rock Steady Boxing because recent research has shown intensive exercise is effective treatment in slowing down the onset of neurological symptoms.  

Parkinson’s disease impacts every muscle of the body, making movement and speech difficult. Over one million Americans suffer from it  annually, according to parkinsonassociation.org. Symptoms may begin with a small hand tremor and progress until the patient is incapacitated. The website also reports one exercise, in particular, registered significant results: boxing.

Rock Steady Boxing uses the intense training regimen of boxers to treat neurological patients in the early stages of the disease. Rippy began as a certified personal trainer at the Y last fall. As a child, he spent time in the gymnasium with his father, who is also a personal trainer. In his youth, the younger Rippy also spent time training as a boxer. Shortly after the Y hired Rippy, they asked him to become a certified Rock Steady Boxing trainer. During his intensive two-day training course, Rippy learned how to teach the course and why it had proved so effective in treating patients.

“Researchers looked at all the Olympic sports and found boxing had the most rigorous workouts and was most effective in delaying Parkinson’s symptoms,” he said. “They looked at over 60 sports judged on 12 different sets of criteria and found boxing provided the best results.”

Rock Steady Boxing begins its twice weekly courses Tuesday, June 12 and concludes on Thursday, Aug. 23. Each session includes warm-up, punching, footwork and cool down. Once the patients are loose, the course proceeds into teaching boxing footwork and punching techniques and working on the body’s abdominal area, hips, and back muscles. According to Rippy, the training improves a patient’s agility and reaction time.

For those taking Rippy’s intense direction of Rock Steady Boxing, he makes one promise. “You will be dripping in sweat and will need a headband and a towel,” he said.

The course is designed for patients recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder and who haven’t been prescribed medication. Bill Simpson, 77, of West Boothbay Harbor is one of those patients anxious to enroll in the course. Simpson has experienced hand tremors and slurred speech for several years. His doctor recommended he enroll in Rock Steady Boxing to treat his symptoms. “I’ve suspected for years I’ve had Parkinson’s, but there is no test for it so you don’t know you have it until the symptoms start,” Simpson said. “My doctor is one of the best and he thinks this will help me.”

Rippy is looking for more students to join him and Simpson for the course. According to Rippy, the first session is more of an introduction to the course. The Y’s Healthy Living Coordinator Abby Jones believes Rock Steady Boxing will be well-received within the community. “The therapy has proven effective for Parkinson’s treatment and doctors have sent their patients to the Y for more rigorous workout routines, “ she said. 

There is no actual boxing in the course. It is entirely devoted to training like a boxer. “Nobody is stepping into the ring. The closest to throwing a punch is into the heavy bag. So no one should worry about getting hit,” Rippy said.

For patients looking for an intense workout, but who prefer not to train like a boxer, the Y has other options. “We have several personal trainers who offer various types of workouts. The research has shown vigorous exercise is the key to slowing down the symptoms so we can find a routine for an individual’s needs,” Jones said.

The Rock Steady Boxing course is free for Y members and $100 for non-members. For more information, contact Rippy at nrippy@brymca.org or call 633-2855 ext. 260.