A senior living community in the Phoenix area is using boxing as a way to improve fitness and memory for residents living with Parkinson’s disease.
The community, which is managed by Kisco Senior Living, announced the launch of the new fitness program last week. The program, dubbed Functional Fitness, is meant to help residents living with Parkinson’s increase their strength and mobility.
About half of people living with Parkinson’s will go on to have mild cognitive impairment, and long-term, many will develop a form of dementia, according to recent research cited by the Parkinson’s Foundation.
During the 30-minute classes, residents practice at three different stations that have them shadow boxing, practicing fancy footwork and hitting punching bags.
Josh Bredimus, fitness specialist at Sagewood, started the Functional Fitness program as a way to help residents with Parkinson’s. Residents had been boxing off site, and after starting the program at the beginning of the year in the community’s fitness studio. So far, nearly every class is full with the maximum amount the studio can hold with around 10 residents and three instructors.
The inspiration for the class came from the Rock Steady Boxing program, which is meant for people living with Parkinson’s, Bredimus said.
“Large gross movements are very good for Parkinson’s,” Bredimus said. “Boxing is the antithesis of those symptoms.”
The program is also starting to show some benefits for helping residents’ memories through repetition and practice of combinations and movements they learn while taking part.
“When they are able to do it and I see they are able to perform some kind of recall, we work in little pods and groups of people so the student becomes the teacher,” Bredimus said. “We make it an easy environment to recall and allow them to be judges and connoisseurs of it, rather than testing them on it.”
Bredimus added residents have told him they appreciate how the class challenges them mentally and allows them to have a social environment as well. The goal is to have a mind and body connection for those in attendance, and Functional Fitness is beginning to overflow into other physical classes.
Due to the turnout and demand, the class may look at expanding to add more sessions so more residents can get involved, and residents taking part are beginning to take part in events to demonstrate what they have learned.
An additional benefit of the Functional Fitness program is the low cost for starting something similar to it up. Bredimus noted that every community’s space is different, but the program can be flexible as a whole.
“You can get a couple of practice mitts or practice batons,” Bredimus said. “You can get up and running for easily under $100. It’s just the know-how. I’m sure it could fit into any community that would want to bring it in.”
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