Rock Steady Boxing helps people in Lincoln fight Parkinson's Disease

When fighters at Rock Steady Boxing are having a hard time, there's a coach by their side every...
When fighters at Rock Steady Boxing are having a hard time, there's a coach by their side every step of the way. (SOURCE: KOLN)(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Feb. 28, 2020 at 7:40 AM CST
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As many as 1,000,000 Americans are currently living with Parkinson's disease, and about 60,000 are diagnosed with it each year. A boxing class is helping people in Lincoln fight back.

Rock Steady Boxing in Lincoln isn't your average boxing class. It's specifically designed for people battling Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's is a neurological disease, making it hard for people to do normal things like walking, keeping balance and even making facial expressions.

Rock Steady Boxing classes start with 30 minutes of stretching. Fighters also participate in doing facial and voice exercises. Coaches then help fighters complete walking exercises and different boxing workouts.

The non-contact classes have been proven to help people with their endurance, flexibility and even their overall attitude and confidence levels.

Rock Steady Boxing fighter Shirley Ritter tells 10/11, "I have more strength. I'm steadier in my walking. It seems to give me the energy I need to get through the day, and those are important things to me and to being a good friend [and] a good family member."

For many people battling Parkinson's disease, completing daily tasks like tying your shoes, walking to the car and getting out of bed can be a struggle. More than a third of people with Parkinson's also develop depression.

Coaches at Rock Steady Boxing push fighters to keep their spirits up and knockout their disease one punch at a time.

When fighters at Rock Steady Boxing are having a hard time, there's a coach by their side every step of the way. Fighters tell 10/11 their coaches are motivators, teachers, and for most, they serve as counselors.

Many coaches tell 10/11 they've seen dramatic changes in most people after they start Rock Steady. Coaches say helping people with Parkinson's face their challenges is a rewarding experience.

"You can tell when some of these participants walk in the door in the morning that they're not having the best day, but they're here. They're ready to get those wraps on and get going, and that to me just speaks volumes," says Rock Steady Boxing coach Mary Livengood.

Rock Steady Boxing coaches tell me fighters aren't they only ones being motivated. Coaches say without the groups they work with, they wouldn't be as determined and inspired as they are today.

Fighters who take Rock Steady Boxing classes are broken up into four groups depending on their level in their disease. No matter how bad thier symptoms are, they continue to push and get through their exercises. Coaches help fighters in their workouts, no matter their level or age.

Parkinson's is a disease that can come during any part of someone's life. One of the youngest people enrolled in Rock Steady Boxing classes is in her forties, and the oldest is turning 90 in March.

Most fighters do Rock Steady three times a week and say they won't miss a class. Not only is the program helping them physically, but it's generally, giving them a healthier outlook on life.

"I have a cane. So, that makes it twice as difficult to do some of the exercises, but I still have hopes of getting rid of the cane," Rock Steady Boxing fighter Max Kellough tells 10/11.

Some of the fighters' spouses shares with 10/11 that their loved one's quality of life improved even after their very first boxing class. One of the biggest things fighters say they enjoy in the class is the camaraderie. Fighters tell 10/11 they've developed friendships, providing them with support to battle their disease.

Both coaches and participants say they'll forever be grateful for how Rock Steady has changed their lives. Rock Steady Boxing coach Rikki Neumann says, "When [some of them] first started Rock Steady, they couldn't get up off the floor when we were doing our stretches, and now, they can do it completely on their own without any assistance, a chair or anything. That's really great to hear that they've improved that much just from being at Rock Steady."

Rock Steady Boxing classes are open for people of all ages in any level of Parkinson's Disease. Many participants say without taking Rock Steady Boxing classes, their disease would have progressed much faster.

Rock Steady Boxing classes happen almost everyday at the Air Park Recreation Center. If you or someone you know is battling Parkinson's, coaches encourage you to come in and watch a class. For more information about Rock Steady Boxing, you can reach Air Park Recreation Center director Debra Williams at (402) 441-7876.