High-intensity boxing program seen as safe, feasible in Parkinson’s

9 of 10 patients reported less severe symptoms after training: Study

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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A high-intensity boxing program can be a safe way for people with Parkinson’s disease to exercise both mind and body, according to a new feasibility study.

Nine of the 10 patients in the study reported less severe symptoms after taking part in the program for about four months.

Researchers noted that the study’s participants had an average age of 60. While the workouts were high intensity, the boxing was non-contact.

The work “provides a depth of feasibility and safety data, methodological detail and preliminary efficacy for periodised non-contact boxing that is not described elsewhere,” David Blacker, a professor at the University of Western Australia and co-author of the study, said in a press release, adding, “It provides a useful basis for future studies of boxing training for” Parkinson’s.

The study, “FIGHT-PD: A feasibility study of periodised boxing training for Parkinson disease,” was published in PM&R.

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3-Month Boxing Program Found to Ease Motor, Nonmotor Symptoms

Benefits of exercise seen first-hand by one researcher

Physical exercise has a wide range of well-established health benefits. For people with Parkinson’s, exercise may help ease motor symptoms, as well as aid in maintaining physical function abilities.

Blacker, who lives with Parkinson’s, noted that he’s experienced the beneficial effects of exercise firsthand.

“Exercise has significantly helped to reduce my symptoms,” Blacker said.

In recent years, boxing has become a popular format for regular exercise among people with Parkinson’s disease. However, there’s minimal published research on the safety or feasibility of these sorts of programs.

To learn more, scientists conducted a study called FIGHT-PD — short for Feasibility of Instituting Graduated High Intensity Training in Parkinson’s disease.

“There is a dearth of high-quality feasibility, safety and efficacy data on boxing training for [Parkinson’s]. FIGHT-PD aimed to examine these features in a periodized boxing training program featuring high intensity physical and cognitive demands,” the researchers wrote.

The study enrolled 10 people in the early stages of Parkinson’s who were able to safely perform intensive exercise. All of the participants completed a 15-week boxing program, with three hour-long sessions per week. Each session included a warm-up period followed by rounds of non-contact boxing using a training device.

The first five weeks of the program focused on training boxing technique. The next five weeks focused on increased intensity, and the final five weeks focused on tasks that required substantial mental focus in addition to physical activity.

All of the patients stuck with the entire 15-week program. Of a total of 360 training sessions planned for the 10 patients, only 12 sessions — less than 3% — were missed; four absences were due to minor injury.

Scores on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), a measure of symptom severity, showed improvement after the boxing program in all but one of the participants.

Overall, according to the team, these findings suggest that high-intensity boxing programs are safe and doable for people with Parkinson’s. The results provide a basis for further research on these types of exercise programs.