Forked River: Knocking Out Parkinson's Disease with Boxing Therapy

Source: Asbury Park Press
It’s almost high noon on a hot spring day at Gladiator Gym in Forked River. Hard work is underway inside. A class is doing boxing exercises — push ups, bobbing and weaving, and lifting dumbbells — under the direction of coach Shawn Darling. He barks the usual instructions and encouragements, and then one not so usual:
“Speak louder!”
This boxing class, with no sparring, is for people with Parkinson’s Disease and it’s called Boxing for Bob. It’s funded by the Highland Park-based Light of Day foundation, which stages the Light of Day music festival each January in Asbury Park.
“The loud talking helps because unfortunately with Parkinson’s, part of it is they start talking lower and almost to a mumble,” said Darling. “So we stress the importance of loud talking.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly 1 million people in the United States and over 10 million worldwide, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. It’s the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.
The idea of boxing training as therapy for Parkinson’s was started by a former county prosecutor in Indiana. Boxing therapy is not a cure for Parkinson’s, but it does help alleviate symptoms, experts say. “There is data that suggests forced exercise is beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Rocco DiPaola, a neurologist based in Toms River who has referred many of the Gladiator Boxing for Bob participants. He adds:
“Boxing addresses a lot of areas people with Parkinson’s have trouble with: hand-eye coordination, dexterity, footwork. People here are very happy with the benefits they derive from the training.”
Boxing for Bob was started at Gladiator Gym in January. It’s free, but participants can pay it forward so others can partake in the classes, too. A Boxing for Bob program will begin in July at Gold’s Gym in Long Branch. If you are interested, contact the gyms, but please make sure you have a medical reference so you can participate.
Paul Labombard, 70, of Bayville, has Parkinson’s. “I’m getting a lot out of it and I look forward to coming here,” he said of the classes. “It’s good to be with people who are doing similar activities and things they can and can’t do. I think that makes us all closer, and (Darling’s) a great trainer.”
Light of Day was founded in Red Bank in 1998 as a 40th birthday party for rocker Joe Grushecky’s manager Bob Benjamin, who had been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The first official Light of Day Festival concert took place in 2000 and has been held in Asbury Park and Sayreville ever since, with shows in Europe and Canada, too.
So far, more than $4.5 million has been raised.

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