Research Aims to Pinpoint How Boxing Exercise May Counter the Effects of Parkinson’s Disease

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Punching Out Parkinson's exerciseIn the boxing ring with a punching bag is how many people in Fort Worth are fighting back against the effects of Parkinson’s disease. And now, the program Punching Out Parkinson’s, is partnering with Christopher Watts, Ph.D., the Marilyn & Morgan Davies Dean of TCU’s Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences and professor of communication sciences and disorders, and his team of research colleagues to pinpoint and document how boxing exercise helps those suffering from Parkinson’s.

Punching Out Parkinson’s was established in 2011 by two-time boxing world champion Paulie Ayala as an added program to his gym, the University of Hard Knocks in Fort Worth. Paulie has been in the sport of boxing for 43 years. With his experience and compassion for the sport, he has dedicated his time and expertise to designing a regimen for people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

“We know the results are there, based on the impact Paulie is seeing in his gym and with participants in his program, and now we want to identify and document exactly how exercise associated with his boxing program is impacting and stimulating the nervous system and motor skills,” Watts said. “We are grateful to be working together and hope this research will help many people in their fight against Parkinson’s disease and advance scientific research in this area for future generations.”Chris Watts, Dean of the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences

Currently, Watts’ team, which consists of TCU faculty Dr. Adam King, Dr. Josh Carr, and Dr. Ryan Porter of the department of kinesiology, post-doctoral research fellow Dr. Zoë Thijs, along with undergraduate and graduate research assistants, has enrolled eight participants who participate in weekly boxing exercise classes. Participants attend boxing exercise classes two times per week over the course of 12 months. The research team continues to seek additional individuals with Parkinson’s disease who are interested in participating in the research.

“The boxing regimen is more than just another workout routine,” Ayala says. “The workout is designed to improve an individual’s movement, speed, eye to hand coordination, balance, strength, speech, endurance and self-image – all the areas Parkinson’s disease takes away.”

This research builds upon other areas of Parkinson’s disease studies currently underway with Watts. In the Laryngeal Function Lab, his primary research and teaching lab in located the Annie Richardson Bass Building on the campus of TCU, Watts aims to create new knowledge and expand existing knowledge related to the understanding of laryngeal function in voice and swallowing with the goal of improving diagnostic and treatment approaches for individuals with impairments. Recently, they have developed an innovative line of research investigating how clinical subtypes of Parkinson’s disease differently impact voice and swallowing.  A listing with links to Dr. Watts’ recent research can be viewed here.

*Those who are interested in joining the study, please contact Dr. Zoë Thijs for more information at zoe.thijs@tcu.edu or 817-257-6728.