People With Parkinson’s Disease Battle Symptoms Through Boxing

COSTA MESA ( — People with Parkinson’s disease are battling their symptoms with a right hook.

Jennifer Parkinson, a Thousand Oaks mom, was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder at 32. It caused her hands to shake, her body to freeze, and she became so fatigued, it cost her a nursing job and her marriage.

“I was just looking at the beginning of my career, raising my children, having this life that I always wanted. This completely turned upside down,” she said.

Eight years later, the 40-year-old said boxing saved her life.

“It teaches me to push myself both mentally and physically, and I could push myself beyond those limits,” said Parkinson.

Parkinson trains at Rock Steady Boxing of Costa Mesa, which was launched by Anne Adams three months ago.

Adams said she watched boxing change her father’s life after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She said she was so inspired, she started a branch in Southern California.

“They found that the forced intense exercise actually starts to remake dopamine,” Adams said.

Dopamine is the brain chemical that affects movements. Although boxing doesn’t reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s, it “rebuilds a little bit of dopamine,” said Adams.

Doug Spence was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago. In the three months since he started the program, he said he can walk better, talk better and even run.

“It’s changed my life,” he said. “When you’re married, you worry about being a burden to your spouse, and it makes it a little easier to know that I’m doing what I can do and it’s helping.”

Spence’s wife, Cathy, agreed.

“The person before boxing compared to the person now is night and day,” she said.

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