Boxing fitness program helps Parkinson’s patients

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. If you don't know someone with the disease -- it's a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement -- including tremors.

The Huntsville-Madison County Senior Center hosts a fitness program called Rock Steady Boxing.

It's non-contact boxing with the goal of empowering people with Parkinson's to fight back.

"My neurologist told me about it, recommended that I try it," said boxer, Fred Gasbarro.

For six months, Fred Gasbarro has been attending Rock Steady classes. Before the program, Gasbarro was on the verge of potential brain surgery.

It took less than six months for him to notice a difference.

"Every day when you wake up with Parkinson's disease, you realize you're supposed to be the best you're ever going to be," said Gasbarro. "It always goes downhill from there, but that's not necessarily the case after coming here. You can maintain and even improve, in my case, improve from where I was."

Another boxer, Grady Edwards, has been a part of Rock Steady for two years. He says there are many things that keep him coming back. "Friendship...and I know it's working, I know it's helping," said Edwards.

The 88-year-old is a champion boxer from his time in the Marine Corps. He says he enjoys the sport because it keeps him feeling good. "I can move my body better, I'm in better shape and I'm back to running again," said Edwards.

The volunteer-driven program hopes to slow disease progression for its 100-some boxers and the ones who find out about the Rock Steady Boxing solution.

The non-profit organization says area neurologists have referred 197 Parkinson's patients to the program. There are about 40 boxers per class and 6 classes per week.

The organization recently added two evening classes for working boxers.