The Fight Never Stop: Rock Steady Boxing gives those affected by Parkinson’s disease the power to strike again | South County Life Magazine

For the athletes at Rock Steady Boxing East Greenwich, they all have something beyond their love of frictionless boxing that unites them: Parkinson’s disease.

Rock Steady Boxing East Greenwich (RSBEG) uses a no-contact fitness approach to boxing to help reduce or delay the progression of symptoms for individuals with any level of Parkinson’s disease. Although the exercises do not involve contact like typical boxing, a contactless boxing therapy program uses the principles of boxing of agility, strength, balance and flexibility exercises.

The goal of the program is to use frictionless boxing techniques to help those living with Parkinson’s improve their quality of life, said Caroline Cosiba-Queterio, RSBEG owner and program director.

“You will see the differences in their personality in general [and] “Body language within eight to twelve weeks,” said Cosiba Kitrio. “When I am told that an athlete has started singing in the car again or whistling to a song, engaging in activities again with their grandchildren or back on the golf course, it makes my heart ache because I was such an aspect of improving it.”

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation website, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects dopamine-producing neurons. As dopamine levels vary, this can gradually develop into movement-related symptoms, such as limb stiffness and balance problems, and immobility symptoms, such as depression and cognitive impairment. Although there is no cure, physical therapy can be part of the overall treatment process.

“Parkinson’s disease is a neuromotor disorder, and we need to educate individuals about the importance of exercise and movement,” Cosiba Kitrio said. “Without specialized movement, cognition, and resilience therapy, individuals can live lives full of distress and pain. We are here to give them a better quality of life so they can play with their grandchildren, take part in a game of golf with friends, and eat lunch or dinner without feeling ashamed.”

Training helps with athletes’ neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize neural networks, Cosipa-Quaterio said. Using offline boxing techniques, it can also improve athletes’ reaction time, posture and fine motor skills, as well as improve cognitive processing.

“Boxing helps release neurotransmitters inside the body and send dopamine to the brain,” she said. “This helps with feeling good about the situation, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment after the workout.”

A typical RSBEG class will include warm-up, boxing, strengthening and conditioning exercises, and then finish with a cool-down period. Every chapter is different, but boxing remains at the core of programming. Seasons vary in size for many reasons including athlete disease progression, injuries, and doctor appointments.

“Strength exercises, such as resistance, help engage those muscles to become stronger, exercise balance helps with walking accuracy, and cognitive skills engage the brain to coordinate what your body does, which all together increases a player’s confidence in athletes.” -Quiterio said.

The East Greenwich branch is one of several Rock Steady Boxing locations. According to the official Rock Steady Boxing website, the nonprofit was founded in 2006 by former Indiana Attorney General Scott C. Newman, who was diagnosed with early Parkinson’s disease. His friend, Vince Perez, used his experience as a golden glove boxer to design a program that helps fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This program will become Rock Steady Boxing.

All of Rock Steady Boxing’s subsidiaries are independently owned and operated. Kosiba-Quiterio has been the owner and program director for East Greenwich for three years now.

Kosiba-Quiterio became familiar with Rock Steady Boxing in 2016. At the time, she was a senior health and wellness manager at a different company and taught kickboxing classes and boot camps. She said that members of the Parkinson’s community told her about Rock Steady Boxing and she knew she should join the program.

“I was moved by what I saw in these individuals and how it might give others a fighting chance,” she said.

Sandy MacLeod became an RSBEG athlete in the summer of 2019. Since joining, MacLeod is stronger than ever, both mentally and physically.

“Your body will thank you, you will be straighter, smile more, move better, feel less tired and lose weight,” MacLeod said.

As a result of her training, MacLeod has reversed some of her symptoms.

“[RSBEG] Help me become a stronger and more confident person in my fight against a disease that has no cure or pills to slow its progression. “Exercise is our medicine…” said MacLeod. “It’s winning. You can’t stay idle. Disease will triumph if you do that.”

Nancy Tierney joined RSBEG in July 2020. One of her favorite parts of being an RSBEG athlete is the feeling of camaraderie from her fellow athletes.

“RSBEG provides easy access to a community of peers who all understand what it means to engage with them [Parkinson’s disease]Tierney said. “We can share information about treatment, doctors, interventions, what helps and what doesn’t. We support and encourage each other.”

Tierney emphasized that those with Parkinson’s disease need exercise to help maintain their symptoms. She has also noticed an improvement since she began her journey with RSBEG.

“I definitely improved in many areas that I was struggling with before joining ROSBEG,” Tierney said. “Because of Caroline’s focused exercises, my balance improves. My upper body strength has also increased, as well as my stamina. Just as important, my emotional health is more resilient due to working and spending time with people who understand and care for me as an individual.”

Cosiba-Quetrio said all athletes should participate in exercise therapy and need to have a desire to progress. As for her current 70’s female athlete, their determination and perseverance inspire her daily.

“They are dealing with a disease that presents many challenges that can change from day to day,” Cosiba Kitrio said. “They are determined, hardworking and grateful for having this place they call home. They always enter the doors of the facility with a ‘can-do’ attitude, excited and energetic to learn the next new move or technology. They are fighting for themselves, their family and friends. No matter if it’s a good day or… Bad, they turn up.”

At the end of the day, Cosiba-Quetiero said she and her team are committed to helping athletes become the best versions of themselves.

“We are here to help our athletes resist,” Cosiba-Quetrio said.

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