I had invited an observer into my RockSteady Boxing™ class. “Psst… which one of them has Parkinson’s?”

Rock Steady Boxing is a non-contact boxing class created specifically for people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In RSB boxers jump rope, practice footwork, hit heavy bags and speed bags along with cognitive, balance and strength work.

As my visitor watches class unfold, she is having a hard time figuring out which of the gloved athletes she is observing have been diagnosed with PD.

I lean down to her and whisper “All of them”, enjoying her surprised reaction. I also realize that some of her fear about her own recent PD diagnosis begins to fade.

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. Early signs of PD are small handwriting, loss of smell and trouble sleeping. The most well-known symptom, a hand tremor, often does not present until later. 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with PD each year. Additional motor symptoms develop as the disease progresses, such as slowness of movement, stiffness, postural instability, and eventual cognitive decline.

Rock Steady Boxing was created in Indianapolis, IN in 2006 from the premise that exercise, the more intense, the better, could slow down the progression of the disease. While all exercise has a beneficial effect on the progression of symptoms, boxing, with its focus on hand eye coordination, balance, agility, reaction time, core strength and even cognitive function seemed the perfect sport to “KNOCK OUT “the specific symptoms of PD.

From a single boxing gym in Indiana RSB now has over 900 affiliates all over the world and has empowered over 50,000 boxers to FIGHT BACK against PD.

My own personal journey to becoming a RSB coach took place in 2017 when I visited a lifelong friend in CA. He had been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and after fighting his way out of a post diagnosis depression and weight gain, he was anxious to show me his new boxing program. I visited the gym in CA and knew right away that this would become my new passion. It was the perfect mix of using my fitness background and my desire to bring the focus of exercise to more than appearance. I flew to IN that May and became a certified RSB instructor.

Fitness Evolution had already begun the Rock Steady Boxing program at its Monticello location in 2017. We currently hold classes M, W and F from 10:00 to 11:30 am.

While the purpose of the class is to slow the progression of the Parkinson’s symptoms the relationships that form become as important as the workouts. Gathering 3 times a week with people who understand exactly what you are going through creates bonds like no other. Often as we are cooling down from class, I will raise a topic of a certain PD struggle and then just step back, out of the conversation, while the fighters offer ideas and support for one another. These are some of my favorite moments. 

I recently asked my boxers what RSB means to them. 
“RSB is the best medicine for Parkinson’s “ 
“RSB friends are the best friends “ 
“We are not a team because we workout together. We are a team because we respect and care for one another. RSB is my team and so much more. It has made all the difference for me. I can count on my peers and coaches. “ 
“Of all the pills I’ve taken Rock Steady Boxing is the finest and most effective “ 
“RSB lets me know that I am not alone “ 
“RSB has taught me how important exercise is to combat PD. Never give up. The members of RSB have shown me compassion, understanding and determination as we all fight for the same goal. Together we find the strength to forge on in this fight “ 

Our RSB participants are always referred to as Boxers and Fighters, never patients. They are athletes through and through. After 15 years in the fitness industry my boxers are some of the best jump ropers, left hook throwers and speed bag hitters I have ever seen. They just so happen to have Parkinson’s - yes “All of them.”

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s please feel free to reach out to me. You can observe a class and get all your questions answered. But be aware… very few people who observe are not gloving up two days later.

Megan Leipholtz 
Certified Personal Trainer and RSB Instructor