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Boxing classes better for people with brain diseases

A New Zealand boxing-fitness expert is urging Kiwis with chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s to lead more physically active lives and start boxing.

Auckland boxing fitness trainer Lisa Gombinsky Roach is especially pleading for people with health issues to exercise more.

She will be speaking on all the benefits of boxing-fitness for older people with Parkinson's at the 11th annual New Zealand exercise industry conference, Fitex, in Auckland between November 23 and 25.

More than 800 people will attend, with more than 60 speakers and 100 sessions. The event will include the annual Exercise NZ exercise industry awards.

Gombinsky Roach has worked on rehabilitation not just in New Zealand but also in Australia, Norway, Canada, and England and says Many people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed in their 40s and 50s and conditions like multiple multiple sclerosis are most likely to be diagnosed in the 30s.

She set up Counterpunch Parkinson’s several years ago on the North Shore along with former New Zealand boxing champion Shane Cameron. Counterpunch Parkinson’s has accredited 60 coaches all around New Zealand and two internationally.

Gombinsky Roach says some years ago people diagnosed with chronic neurological conditions were treated as invalids and told to consider a wheelchair.

“Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Robust research supports the benefits of exercise for people with virtually every diagnosis.

“I tell anyone who has a disease such as Parkinson's not to let an old person move into move into their body. The advice to slow down and be careful and avoid fatigue is no longer considered best practice and will often do more harm than good.

“My brand Counterpunch Parkinson’s is like most box fit programmes which is purely non-contact. Boxing is great for fitness, coordination, strength and agility and does not cause brain injuries or Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

“In our classes we just hit boxing bags and focus pads and do exercise that improves balance and works on fall prevention so arguably we are helping people protect their brains.

“Exercise promotes brain health and is neuroprotective, promotes repair where possible and promotes neuroplasticity. Being sedentary promotes brain decline.

“Boxing is fun and engaging and allows us to address the motor issues of conditions like Parkinson’s such as balance, stiffness, slowness, tremor and strength.

“We give people a way to release frustrations of the disease. We give them hope, make them feel positive and feel better instead of leaving them to despair as they sit back and accept that they are getting worse.

“Parkinson’s doesn’t kill people, but it can isolate them, it can frustrate them, it can cause apathy, depression and anxiety. Socialising at a box fit class is better for people. We say when life gives you Parkinson’s, then Counterpunch.

“There is considerable literature that supports exercise for literally all neurological conditions which suggests that being sedentary adds secondary complications,” Gombinsky Roach says.

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