Boxing training has become a popular form of exercise for people with Parkinson’s but until now, there has been little high-quality data on its feasibility, safety and efficacy for this neurodegenerative disorder.

Now, a Western Australian-led study addressing deficiencies in the knowledge base has shown that non-contact boxing training for people in the early stages of Parkinson’s is well tolerated, safe and provides a stimulating all round work out.

FIGHT-PD (Feasibility of Instituting Graduated High Intensity Training) was originally developed by Clinical Professor David Blacker (Perron Institute Medical Director) and Rai Fazio (former Golden Gloves champion and now a highly regarded fitness trainer), and was further enhanced by Dr Travis Cruikshank (Exercise Physiologist, Edith Cowan University and Perron Institute).

The study participants, averaging 60 years of age, all with early-stage Parkinson’s, completed a 15-week exercise program with three one-hour sessions per week, using the Fightmaster-training device and a detailed, carefully measured exercise program.

Training technique was the initial focus. Intensity was increased to a high intensity level in phase two, and cognitively challenging dual task training was introduced in the third phase.

The study, FIGHT-PD: A feasibility study of periodised boxing training for Parkinson disease, is published in PM&R, the official journal of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Senior author, Clinical Professor David Blacker (Perron Institute Medical Director, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia), is a strong advocate for exercise and has a personal perspective as someone living with PD.

“Exercise has significantly helped to reduce my symptoms,” Professor Blacker said.

“The WA study provides a depth of feasibility and safety data, methodological detail and preliminary efficacy for periodised non-contact boxing that is not described elsewhere.

“It provides a useful basis for future studies of boxing training for PD.”

The FIGHT-PD team included; Dr Cruickshank, Rai Fazio, senior neurophysiotherapist Claire Tucak (Perron Institute and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital,) Georgina Holbeche (Perron Institute clinic), ECU PhD student Mitchell Turner, ECU Honours students Phillip Beranek, Connor Pollard and Tegan Shelley, and UWA Medical student Sanathraj Rajandran.

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