CEDAR CITY (News4Utah) – April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and Southern Utah University students have helped create a boxing program for those suffering from the disease.
“I’m exhilarated when I’m finished. I look forward to coming every time,” said Tom Walker, a Rock Steady Boxing participant.
Tom Walker taught special education for more than 20 years, but two years ago was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“When I got the diagnosis, I of course was surprised, and I thought: ‘Well, it may take a toll on me, but it will never beat me, I’m going to fight it all the way,” said Walker.
And fight Walker does – attending a daily boxing class to help combat the symptoms that come with the disease.
The class started when retired SUU professor Dan Dail, who also has Parkinson’s, learned about the benefits of boxing.
“It seems counter-intuitive if you think about Muhammad Ali, but well, it’s non-contact boxing,” said Dail.
Dail went to SUU’s Rural Health Scholar Program and asked if they could help. Jens Howe, a pre-physical therapy student, jumped at the opportunity.
“I’m helping these guys retain their quality of life and live longer,” said Howe.
In the last six months Howe has seen improvements in participant’s coordination, balance, flexibility and mood.
“Their minds just kind of sharpen up as you put them through these tough exercises,” said Howe.
“Physically everyone who has gone to their doctor comes back saying: ‘My doctor told me I’m getting a little bit better, that I’m doing very well, and to keep it up. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.'”
“It’s a win-win for everybody. The students that come and help, the volunteers are fantastic, it gives them experience and they can help us,” said Walker.
The classes are offered daily in Cedar City, but those working with Rock Steady Boxing have a goal of doubling the class offerings because of the growing demand.