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Boxing program helps those with Parkinson’s knock back symptoms

Jim Flynn of Kansas City hits the speed bag at In Your Corner, a gym in Overland Park that offers a Rock Steady therapy boxing workout program for Parkinson’s patients.
Jim Flynn of Kansas City hits the speed bag at In Your Corner, a gym in Overland Park that offers a Rock Steady therapy boxing workout program for Parkinson’s patients. Special to the Star

Laura Kreisler is one of dozens of area Parkinson’s disease patients who have taken up boxing.

Kreisler had stopped going out much, even to the grocery store. After living for 16 years with Parkinson’s disease, she started having a lot of falls. Her muscles would freeze up, and she shuffled a lot. She was considering surgery.

The 61-year-old Kansas City resident had used running and other forms of exercise for years to help stave off these kinds of physical symptoms of the disease, but found they didn’t help much anymore.

Then she discovered Rock Steady, a modified boxing program specifically formed to help people knock back the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“It has made a huge difference,” Kreisler said, adding that her family has noticed a big difference. “My body has become stronger. My posture has improved. I have not had a freezing episode.”.

In Your Corner Fitness, 3825B W. 95th St. in Overland Park, opened in April 2016.

Owner Sarrisa Curry was working as a boxing instructor at another gym about a year and a half ago when she started getting calls from people with Parkinson’s disease. A national news story had featured the progress one news anchor’s husband had made with the Rock Steady program. People were wondering if there was anything like it close to home.

“People were desperate to find something similar,” Curry said. “There was an obvious need for something like this in the Kansas City area.”

Curry looked into the Rock Steady program, which was founded in 2006 in Indianapolis. Rock Steady is designed to target the specific movements, range of motion and hand-eye coordination that can be a challenge for Parkinson’s patients. Curry had been a fitness instructor, including a boxing teacher, for 15 years. She liked the fact that the results of Rock Steady seemed to be backed by academic research.

“It is very different from a normal boxing program. It has big movements, high knees, marching. There is a focus on agility work and balance,” Curry said.

Most members come to classes three to four times a week. Curry has seen the program benefit a range of people — from those relatively new to their diagnosis to people who have had the disease for decades. People in her gym have put away their walkers and reported their medicine seems more effective. Curry’s oldest member is 94.

“It is a different benefit for her, but she says she’s seen an increase in confidence, where she can go out with her family again and do things,” Curry said.

In Your Corner Fitness also offers yoga, stretching, dance and rhythm drumming classes to people with Parkinson’s disease. The majority of the members are men, because the vast majority of people with Parkinson’s are men. The program costs about $175 a month, but Curry has a stipend program in order to make it accessible to all.

Curry’s class has been so successful she has decided to extend the offering to the north side of the metro area. Rock Steady classes are now available at Perseverance MMA and Athletic Academy at 7402 North Oak Trafficway.

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