Written by Lori DePorter
Boxing is a total workout for both your mind and your body. It incorporates cardio, strength, balance, hand-eye coordination, and speed—to name just a few. And, for people with Parkinson’s, another benefit is its impacts on non-motor, invisible symptoms, including anxiety and depression.
Punching a heavy bag is extremely gratifying (especially if you’ve nicknamed that bag “My Parkinson’s”). When I am punching a heavy bag, Parkinson’s is in the room, but it’s getting pummeled by me. (It’s important to note: hand protection is essential when using a heavy bag.)
What if I have mobility issues or a heavy bag is not available?
Is boxing still an option? Absolutely! However, first and foremost, be safe and consult your care team to ensure that an exercise routine that includes a boxing element is safe for you. Once you have their consent, there are options to accommodate different fitness levels and abilities
A chair can be used for the entire workout, either with a heavy bag or shadowboxing. It can also be used to assist in balance for parts of the workout. It’s important to do what makes you feel steady and comfortable.
Shadowboxing is a great option and does not require equipment. However, it is helpful to have a mirror to allow yourself to see your form.
What are the basics of boxing?
Some tips to remember about form and stance:
- Full extension of your arm. Parkinson’s tries to make you small, so punch BIG
- Don’t sacrifice form for speed
- Engage your core at all times and use your entire body
- Boxer stance: one leg forward and one leg back(your back leg should be dominant)
- Split stance for stability
- Hands are up and guarding your face. Stand tall. Don’t round your back and shoulders
The basic punches include:
- Jab: Punch straight out and rotate your arm and fist so the thumb points down
- Cross: Punch across your body and rotate your arm and fist so the thumb points down
- Uppercut: Start low rotating your torso to finish in front of your face. (And don’t hit yourself in the face!)
- Hook: Rotate your body, elbow, and forearm up and parallel to the floor, rotate and punch. bringing your elbow forward
Some basic combinations include:
- JAB-CROSS: Jab (using non-dominant arm/front leg); Cross (dominant arm/back leg)
- UPPER-HOOK: Upper (using non-dominant arm/front leg); Hook (dominant arm/back leg)
Can Strength Exercises be Incorporated into the Workout?
Adding strength elements using body weight is an option. A great mini-workout example:
- 2 boxing combinations
- 1 upper-body strength exercise
- 1 lower-body strength exercise
Some examples of upper body exercises are pushups, ladder climbers (reach up and pull down), and exaggerated arm swings (pretend you are cross country skiing).
For lower body strength exercises, try adding a bob and weave (duck), squats, lunges, calf raises, toe raises, or stepping in different directions while shifting your body weight.
Are Weights an Option?
If gloves and a heavy bag are available, the gloves will be enough added weight. However, if your workout is shadowboxing, you can intensify your workout by adding LIGHT hand weights of three pounds or less. Using heavier weights may lead to fatigue and compromise your form. Full water bottles or cans of soup make perfect hand weights if dumbbells are not available to you.
What are Neuroplasticity Exercises?
Boxing builds a strong body, but incorporating neuroplasticity exercises is an important part of the workout. It’s a big word for a basic concept: exercise your brain. Rather than simply throwing punches, add a cognitive element. Get creative by counting by twos, singing the alphabet, reciting the days of the week and months of the year (both forward and backward), saying colors you see around the room, or spelling your name out loud. The possibilities are endless.
What Are Some Options to Make Your Workout Your Own?
- Use a heavy bag with gloves or shadow box
- Use a counter/chair to modify exercises and provide support/stay seated in a sturdy chair. Safety is paramount!
- Work out with a care partner, friend, or others with Parkinson’s
- Play music – anything that gets you moving and singing
The toughest part of the workout is getting started. After that, remember to have fun and finish with a knockout Parkinson’s Punch.
More Resources about Boxing and Parkinson’s
[Webinar Recording] The Latest and Greatest on Boxing and Parkinson’s
How Can Boxing Help You Live Well with Parkinson’s?
Boxing Lessons and Other Learnings from the Newly Diagnosed
Bill London Boxes (and Fundraises) to Live Well with Parkinson’s