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A new focus

CRESTVIEW — Rock Steady Boxing is changing the way people fight the battle of living with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative movement disorder that can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function.

The non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness program was created in 2006 by Scott Newman. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Newman began boxing with a friend and realized it was helping to slow down his symptoms. Newman spoke with his doctors, who looked into the effects and found that boxing was, in fact, helping with the disease.

Shaun Knight, who coaches the Rock Steady Boxing Northwest Florida class, said the program gives people living with the disease another tool to deal with it.

“The disease takes away so much of your motor skills, balance and coordination,” Knight said. “Non-contact boxing helps those individuals gain some of that back. Boxing is giving these individuals a chance to fight back and gain their sense of self.”

Knight, who is an athletic trainer, said he was skeptical of the idea at first, but things changed when he went to the program's training in Miami.

“Boxers came in on all levels of Parkinson’s and they came in with good energy. The vibes were strong and everyone was excited.” Knight said. “They did everything we did at 100 percent, even passed that. At that point I was all in. I was excited to bring it back to the area.”

Knight teaches the class in Crestview in the Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers building, located at 728 North Ferdon Blvd.

The program includes an intense warmup and boxing drills. The boxing drills include activities such as bobbing and weaving, reflex bag, ground and pound, and focus mitts.

“We incorporate the balance training as far as moving side to side, forward and back, throwing punches at the same time,” Knight said. “It gives the boxers a new focus. The brain is focusing on the boxing combination, not more or less on the disease.”

Knight said the program often has good results, but isn’t necessarily an alternative to medicine or other options.

“People should give it an opportunity,” Knight said. “It’s just another tool. When people get diagnosed, they might think that’s it. This is just something else that’s available and it’s in the area. The question I always say is ‘Why not?’”

Knight said the program is not just physically significant, but also mentally and emotionally significant.

“You can see the comradery. People come in and they’re holding each other accountable,” Knight said. “They start looking past the disease. They start looking at ‘I’ve got a second family here and we’re all in this fight together.”

For more information on the program, visit www.rocksteadyboxing.org

This article originally appeared on Crestview News Bulletin: A new focus