BREVARD COUNTY — Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S., and while there is no known cure, there are options to treat its symptoms.
Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide people living with Parkinson’s disease an opportunity to earn some of their independence back.
With affiliates across the country and even internationally, a Melbourne branch is open and already making a difference in residents’ lives. Rock Steady Boxing at Advance Fitness is operated by Janice Moia, and it offers classes three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays exclusively for people living with Parkinson’s disease.
“Rock Steady Boxing Founder Scott Newman was diagnosed with early on-set Parkinson’s,” Mrs. Moia said. “He started taking a boxing class and realized that his tremors were easing and his handwriting was getting better.”
A program was then designed and put into practice in Indiana by Mr. Newman and a partner to empower participants, teaching clients how to train as a boxer (although there is no contact with other students), in addition to strength, balance and core training.
With more than 5,000 residents diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in Brevard County, according to Mrs. Moia, one of the biggest challenges is spreading the word about how much Rock Steady Boxing can impact their lives for good.
“It is being recognized by neurologists, the American Physical Therapy Association and movement specialists as one of the best ways to reduce, even eliminate, some of the symptoms the people with Parkinson’s suffer with on a daily basis,” Mrs. Moia said.
The cause for Parkinson’s disease is not known, and symptoms can vary between each person diagnosed with it.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include tremors or shaking, often in a hand, arm, leg, jaw or face; stiff, weak or aching muscles; and difficulty with walking and balance.
“There is a neuron in the brain that produces dopamine and when these neurons die off it causes Parkinson's Disease,” Mrs. Moia explained. “By the time they’re diagnosed, more than 50% of that dopamine is already gone. The medicine only helps to a certain extent, which is different with every person with the disease.
"People who do Rock Steady Boxing have shown increased gray matter, which means more neurons in the brain and increased brain activation that helps protect those neurons from dying off," she continued.
With a background in working as a physical therapist assistant for 20 years, Mrs. Moia said helping people restore some balance in their life is what brings her joy in life.
Mrs. Moia said her own father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the ‘90s, and with little research on the disease, doctors told him not to over exert himself or exercise. When he was moved to an assisted living facility that offered no exercise classes, his condition quickly worsened, and he passed away in 2002.
Through providing classes, Mrs. Moia said she has heard of stories of clients regaining some semblance of normalcy, such as they no longer rely on a cane to walk or they are socializing more.
“They’re getting strength, building confidence, and I’m teaching them the floor isn’t scary,” Mrs. Moia said. “We teach them how to fall, and it has saved several people from seriously injuring themselves. We pull out a big mat and pretend like we’re falling and show them how to roll.”
A majority of clients continue to stick with the program, and attend each class offered three times a week. Memberships cost $70 per month for unlimited classes.
Classes are about 90 minutes each, and are offered at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Evening classes are available at 5:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday.
Volunteers who have a passion for fitness and assisting those in need can contact Mrs. Moia for more information about how to get involved.
Rock Steady Boxing at Advance Fitness is located at 2176 Sarno Road, Suite No. 102.
For more information, call (321) 693-9246 or visit www.rocksteadyboxingbrevard.com.