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Asheville boxing gym helping Parkinson patients fight back against the disease

American Top Team Asheville is helping Parkinson patients fight back against the disease through a program called Rock Steady Boxing. It's a world wide program that aims to slow down the progression. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

American Top Team Asheville is helping Parkinson patients fight back against the disease through a program called Rock Steady Boxing. It's a world wide program that aims to slow down the progression.

Mike Ward was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2009. Before the diagnosis, he lived an active life as a physical therapist. He said the boxing class has helped him regain his former active lifestyle.

"Boxing encompasses more of what you need in a holistic way to function," Mike said.

During the workout, trainer Chris Sawtelle puts Mike though a variety of drills, working on balance, hand-eye coordination, cognitive strength and even how to fall properly.

"They get that warrior spirit when they come in here...You come in here, do boxing, get to exert yourself and channel some of the aggression that you have built up. Lets face it, we all have it. (Aggression) They certainly have a reason to be frustrated, so they come out here to get that out and leave here feeling good," Chris said.

The Rock Steady Boxing program started in Indiana back in 2006. Since then, there are close to 500 programs world-wide.

Chris said helping Parkinson patients fight back has been a rewarding journey for him.

"When I started working with the Parkinson community, it really gave me another purpose that I felt was a good purpose," Chris said.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates there are more than 1 million people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year. Mike wants others living with the disease to get up and move, find something that's challenging and build upon it.

"You're not going to let it define you and roll over. You know it's going to win eventually but you are going to give it a good uppercut going out," Mike said.

Saturday, December 16, American Top Team Asheville is holding an open house for the class. Anyone dealing with Parkinson's or those who would like to find out more information is welcome to attend.

The class is from 11 am - 1:30 p.m. at American Top Team Asheville located at 375 Rockwood Road, Arden, NC 28704. Phone: (828) 684-1338




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