A non-contact boxing exercise study for Parkinson’s disease (PD) is progressing well. The ten patients recruited for the FIGHT-PD study are more than half way through the program.

The study is being conducted at Edith Cowan University’s Joondalup campus in collaboration with the Perron Institute and UWA.

Clinical Professor David Blacker (top right), Perron Institute Medical Director, is leading the study. He is collaborating with former Golden Gloves Boxing champion and fitness instructor Rai Fazio who developed the program with him. Exercise physiologist, researcher and Perron Institute Research Affiliate Dr Travis Cruickshank and PhD student Mitchell Turner, both from ECU, along with Claire Tucak, senior neurophysiotherapist (Perron Institute) are also on the team.

The study team is passionate about finding further treatment options for Parkinson’s, a disease which currently has no cure.

Professor Blacker has a highly personalised point of view as a neurologist and also having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He is a strong advocate for exercise, given that it has significantly helped to reduce his symptoms.

“Boxing movements are perfect for Parkinson’s patients,” he said, “but to avoid the risk of injury and to maximise benefit it is essential that such exercises are done correctly.

“Rai Fazio’s expertise and generosity in this partnership has been invaluable in developing the boxing exercise program we are currently studying.

“In the literature, there is a big gap in our knowledge. We’re gathering data to show the benefit of non-contact boxing as an exercise therapy for people with Parkinson’s,” Professor Blacker said.

Through the FIGHT-PD study, Dr Blacker and the team seek to show the benefits of boxing as an exercise therapy for Parkinson’s. So far, the program has improved balance, fitness and overall wellbeing for participants.

One participant is now running again after not being able to run for some time. Other feedback includes comments such as: ‘I’m so happy I can move more easily to play with my grandkids’.

COVID-19 delayed the start and the study will finish in September, with key results to be released soon after. An abstract and video are scheduled to be presented at the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society Virtual Congress.