Boxing Program Helps Parkinson's Patients Become ‘Rock Steady'

Gerry Blank's Marital Arts Center in Pacific Palisades is part of a nationwide non-profit boxing program that helps patients of the disease

Seventy-year-old Greg Broughton from Venice Beach was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease three years ago. The neuro-degenerative condition limits his movements and causes tremors.

"Just trying to button my shirt, open a carton of milk, everything I find takes much more deliberation," Broughton said.

For the past few months, Broughton has been coming to Gerry Blank's Marital Arts Center in Pacific Palisades for a boxing class specifically tailored to people with Parkinson's.

"We do know that forced intense exercise keeps some of the symptoms of Parkinson's at bay and, in some cases, even reverses them." said Sarah Lahalih, a coach at the gym. "A lot of the movements are oppositional movements which helps with cognitive training and strengthens the core."

The class is part of a nationwide non-profit program called "Rock Steady." It emphasizes gross motor skills, balance, core strength, and rhythm.

"The punching part feels really good, almost sort of like a release and also just to accomplish it," Broughton said. "But I have to admit the footwork part of it doesn't feel very good at all because I'm totally clumsy."

There is one aspect of this type of boxing that Broughton especially loves.

"It was particularly appealing when I found out no one was hitting back!" Broughton joked.

Lillian Roth, diagnosed with Parkinson's 8 years ago, never thought she would get involved in a sport like this.

"My kids particularly think it's hilarious," Roth said. "They're middle-aged and they say, 'Boxing?'"

Like others in this class, though, she is beginning to notice improvements.

"I think it's good for my shoulders and arm strength, and hopefully my movement will get better," Roth said.

The class also includes exercises to increase mobility and hand-eye coordination.

Lahalih, a 4 time Chicago Golden Gloves champ, says the program is changing lives everyday.

"We've had students come in on walkers and a month later [they] ditch their walker because they don't need it anymore," Lahalih said.

The students also benefit from the sense of community.

"It illustrates that you're not by yourself," Broughton said. "You've got [other] folks are in the same circumstances."

Together, they're knocking out symptoms one by one, fighting for a healthy future one punch at a time.

To learn more about the Rock Steady program, you can visit their website at

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