Tuesday January 21, 2020

Boxing for Fitness Takes the Fight to Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's mainly affects the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. That leads to a lack or a loss of dopamine, which contributes to the movement difficulties

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Boxing
The Rock Steady Boxing nonprofit was founded in 2006 by attorney Scott C. Newman, who was looking for ways to stay active after being diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 40. Pixabay

Rock Steady Boxing NOVA gym opened in McLean, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., last December. That was the good news for 75-year-old Neil Eisner, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago and finds boxing an effective way to fight back against the disease.

Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) was designed especially for people with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to tremors and balance problems. Each exercise in the program focuses on a specific skill — one is combining punches on a bag to work on strength, another is crawling across the floor. Eisner says the exercises help him perform everyday tasks like moving around and getting in and out of bed.

Some strengthening exercises target vocal cords. “One of the things that’s interesting enough is [Parkinson’s patients] tend to have a [softer] voice. When you have that lower voice, and people can’t hear you, you don’t realize. So, he asks us to bring our voice clearly and more loudly,” Eisner said.

Becoming an RSB trainer

For personal trainer Alec Langstein, working with an older population is familiar. He understands their health issues and the need for them to stay active.

boxing-gym
Parkinson’s patient Jim Coppula gets some pointers from his daughter Ellen as he works out on a bag during his Rock Steady Boxing class in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 18, 2013. (VOA)

“My aunt has a gym in Westchester, New York, and she does a Rock Steady Boxing program there,” he said. “She invited me up to her gym to check out the program. She thought it would be a perfect fit for what I do. I helped out with a few classes, and it was just, I thought, an amazing program.”

The Rock Steady Boxing nonprofit was founded in 2006 by attorney Scott C. Newman, who was looking for ways to stay active after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 40. Since then, more than 500 boxing programs have been introduced in the U.S. and around the world.

Langstein went to the organization’s headquarters to become an RSB-licensed trainer, and a few months later, he opened his Rock Steady Boxing NOVA gym.

“It’s a typical boxing program,” he explained. “They focus on balance, hand-eye coordination, reaction, footwork. There is some cognitive stuff because in boxing, certain numbers equal certain punches. So, when I yell certain numbers, you have to move and react at the same time. So, the brain and the body are working together. It’s also taking out the aggression some people may have out of having the disease.”

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A Parkinson’s patient waits for his training session in the ring during his Rock Steady Boxing session in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 16, 2013. (VOA)

Improving quality of life

To understand how RSB can help Parkinson’s patients, physical therapist Danielle Sequira says it’s important to know what triggers the symptoms.

“Parkinson’s mainly affects the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. That leads to a lack or a loss of dopamine, which contributes to the movement difficulties,” she said.

While boxing and other exercises don’t cure the disease or stop the dopamine decline, they can improve the patient’s quality of life. Exercises can be modified for people with Parkinson’s, including those in wheelchairs.

“The research shows that exercise helps the brain use dopamine more efficiently,” Sequira said. “My goal usually, after I work with some of my patients with Parkinson’s, is to refer them out to get involved in an exercise program out in the community.”

Parkinsons
Parkinson’s patients stretch as they begin their workout at Rock Steady Boxing in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 16, 2013. (VOA)

The social effect

RSB seems to have helped Victoria Hebert reduce the symptoms of her Parkinson’s. She has a tremor in her left hand, and says certain situations trigger it.

“Being cold, being hot, or sitting with a crowd I’m not very comfortable with, I can’t help starting to shake. I end up having to sit on my hand just to keep it still,” she said.

Also Read: Study: Experimental Drug can Halt Parkinson’s Progression

But with this crowd, Hebert doesn’t feel the need to hide the disease. “These people have become very close in the four or five months we’ve been together.”

“That’s the big part of it, sharing experiences with others,” she added. “I have to say, it’s very embarrassing, but over eight years of time I’ve never met another person with Parkinson’s. Then, I came here, and it was like a whole class of 20, 25 people with it. It was kind of surprising to me, kind of surprising that I, myself, didn’t reach out to anybody before that.” (VOA)

Next Story

Know the Difference between Parkinson’s Disease and Bipolar Disorder

Is there any relationship between Parkinson's disease and Bipolar disorder?

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disorder disease
Parkinsons disease is caused by low levels of a neuro-transmitter called dopamine in the brain, bipolar disorder is due to high levels of the same neurotransmitter. Lifetime Stock

Parkinsons disease and bipolar disorders are two ends of the same spectrum. Whereas, Parkinsons disease (PD) is caused by low levels of a neuro-transmitter called dopamine in the brain, bipolar disorder (BD) is due to high levels of the same neurotransmitter.

IANSlife spoke with Dr Madhuri Behari, Professor & Head, Department of Neurology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, to find out what the relationship between the two is.

Dr Behari explains that Dopamine is essential for refined motor activities and all symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like tremour, slowness of actions, stiffness of muscles and postural stability are due to decreased levels of dopamine. Dopamine is also known as the happiness hormone and its decreased levels result in depression.

On the other hand, high levels of Dopamine causes symptoms of bipolar state such as manic behaviour (over-activity, not able to sleep, talkativeness, unnecessarily happy, suspicious behaviour, thinking that everyone is talking about them etc.), hallucination and other symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder
Dopamine causes symptoms of bipolar disorder such as manic behaviour. Lifetime Stock

In India, there is very low awareness about these diseases and because of that there are lots of misunderstandings. The time patient reaches a neurologist the golden time is lost and in most of the cases we become helpless. While Parkinson’s disease is disease of elderly, Bipolar disorder usually occurs in young people. Since, the urban elderly population is living alone, it becomes difficult to track their behaviour for early symptoms of PD or bipolar symptoms due to side effects of high doses of levodopa (medicine given for PD).

It is also noted that in later stages of PD, when the dose of Levodopa or other drugs given to treat PD in high doses as per need of patient, some susceptible people develop mania,

hallucination and psychosis which can be treated by decreasing the dose of medicines and in some cases by doing deep brain stimulation operation. Whereas bipolar disorder can be treated by medicines only. It is highly recommended that we must pay close attention to elderly people to note occurrence of early symptoms of PD or bipolar symptoms.

Also Read- No White Christmas in Shimla This Year Too!

Our mind is a machine which realizes that after 40 years of age there is nothing to learn and became stagnant. Constant absence of new learning may lead reduction in levels of certain neurotransmitters, hence it is recommended that we must start learning new brain activities after 40 years of age like learning new language, new hobby etc. to prevent loss of brain functioning or development of memory loss or dementia.

Brain is the most important part of our body which is complex and needs constant activation. While we can exercise our arms, legs, body or neck; similarly brain also needs regular exercise. (IANS)

2 responses to “Know the Difference between Parkinson’s Disease and Bipolar Disorder”

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