Rock Steady Boxing aims to knock out Parkinson's disease

Posted at 9:20 PM, Jun 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-09 23:28:19-04

The people in a West Allis Boxing class are not in a ring, but they are fighting an enemy: they want to knock out Parkinson's disease.

You could call it a fight club, though it's power is not in its punch, but in its goal. It's one that's giving thousands of people a new reason to live.

Patients are discovering boxing is an effective therapy in managing the neurological disorder. It affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States. Darrell Jack, the owner of Fast Forward Fitness and coach of Rock Steady Boxing guides clients through the moves.

They are performing boxing drills that help patients with agility, speed, endurance and eye coordination.

"It peps me up and I feel like I move better," said Rich Cooper.

"They have control of their life in some way. That's one of the biggest parts of this. It helps people reclaim control of what was lost through Parkinson's disease," said Jack.

Sixty-six-year-old Rich Cooper was devastated when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's 10 years ago.

"It was a total black hole for me. It was like all kinds of stuff came into the picture, anxiety depression," Cooper said.

But it all turned around with his class at Rock Steady Boxing. He even finds solidarity with other Parkinson's patients.

"You can't believe the camaraderie. Everybody supports everybody and it’s beautiful. You make friends right away and it makes you feel good that you’re supporting somebody else," Cooper said.

"It's a lot of hard work that goes into this,” Jack said. “It’s a lot of courage to show up to this class, but the camaraderie that's created here its special something you don't get in anything else. I'm really helping people recapture their lives being part of this program and that's special."

And the heavyweight prize? Parkinson's patients discover that despite their disease, they can still strengthen their muscles and their minds.

"As a neurodegenerative disease you're literally losing parts of the control of your life, the beautiful thing is being part of this program they are literally able to recapture that. It's very powerful," Jack said.

On Saturday, June 10, Milwaukee hosts its first ever "Moving Day Milwaukee" at Hart Park.  The national fun walk/run raises money for the National Parkinson's Foundation. Registration begins at 9 a.m. the event starts at 10:30 a.m.