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Boxing and yoga program takes a jab at Parkinson’s

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 3, 2016

 Mike Martelli, certified in Rock Steady Boxing and owner of The Boxing Rink, shows Simon Zakalik, of Farmington Hills, a stance designed to strengthen core muscles and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease during a Rock Steady Boxing class held at the facility Jan. 28.

Mike Martelli, certified in Rock Steady Boxing and owner of The Boxing Rink, shows Simon Zakalik, of Farmington Hills, a stance designed to strengthen core muscles and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease during a Rock Steady Boxing class held at the facility Jan. 28.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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A new exercise program offered in Troy uses boxing moves and yoga stretches to ease the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement and often includes tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity in the limbs and trunk, and impaired balance and coordination.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website, “PD is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.”

According to the Michigan Parkinson’s Foundation, an estimated 30,000 people in Michigan have the disease.

Mike Martelli, boxing coach, owner and program director of The Boxing Rink in Troy; along with Carol Schram, certified personal trainer; and Deb Colling, certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, aim to help those with Parkinson’s using boxing moves and yoga stretches through the Rock Steady program.

Martelli and Schram are certified in Rock Steady Boxing, which is based in training used by professional boxers and adapted for those with Parkinson’s.

The program involves stretching, running, jump-roping, push-ups, balancing and noncontact boxing.

There are 12 people in the first Rock Steady program at The Boxing Rink.

Martelli said the program started in Indianapolis, and he recently traveled there to become certified in the program.

Martelli started boxing at the age of 12 and won the Silver Gloves State Championship when he was 14. He was invited to try out for the 1984 Olympics, but he shattered his wrist and stopped boxing. He pursued an engineering career, but he said he felt unfulfilled and decided to return to boxing as a trainer. He also trains youth hockey teams. The Boxing Rink on Austin Drive in Troy has been open for a year and a half.

Rock Steady Boxing Inc., a nonprofit organization, was founded in Indianapolis in 2006 with six participants. According to the organization, the Rock Steady Boxing Method was developed over seven years. There are 80 Rock Steady Boxing affiliates in 27 states, as well as international affiliates in Australia and Canada, with more than 200 certified Rock Steady boxing coaches in the world.

“We have always believed in the Rock Steady Boxing Method,” said Rock Steady Boxing Inc. Executive Director Joyce Johnson in a prepared statement. “When evidence began to emerge that our program had a very positive impact on the ‘boxers,’ our mission became clear — to share our knowledge and experience with all people with Parkinson’s. That is why we decided to make our training available worldwide — to train as many as we can so together we can improve the care of people with Parkinson’s everywhere.”

“We do balance drills and get people out of their comfort zone,” Martelli said. “They’re having fun and we’re getting them to work out too.”

He explained that the movements center on eye/hand, eye/feet, 365-degree turn motions and core movements, which all reportedly battle the effects of Parkinson’s.

Martelli said most people affected with the disease are in their 60s and 70s and are mostly male, although three of the people in the class are female.

Schram’s husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 at age 46. She said her husband continues to work full time. She became certified with Rock Steady this past May. Before that, she worked with him doing kickboxing and other martial arts.

When she found out about Rock Steady, she said she thought, “I’m just going to learn this. I think it’s very important to exercise.”

She said she was impressed with the evidence that the moves used in the program slow progression of the disease.

Colling said the yoga room for the Rock Steady program is kept at 74 degrees.

“We start them in a chair,” she said. “The main focus is to help them decrease rigidity and get gentle movements.”

These include core exercises, stretching and twisting the torso.

“We do them on the floor as well,” she said.

“I think it’s a great program. It’s a program that people can come to that builds confidence,” Schram said.

The Boxing Rink is located at 1705 Austin Drive in Troy. For information about Rock Steady Boxing in Troy, visit www.theboxingrink.com. Information about Rock Steady Boxing and Parkinson’s disease is at www.rocksteadyboxing.org.

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