Beating Back Parkinson's With Boxing

Creative exercise slows symptoms

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBC 5
    Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease Patient Stacy Christopher trains on a speed bag at Paulie Ayala's Gym in Fort Worth.

    Three North Texans with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease are finding a unique way to fight the illness.

    The trio is adopting the attitude of serious athletes and the commitment of champions.

    At Paulie Ayala’s University of Hard Knocks Gym in Fort Worth, most fighters train to knockout who is right in front of them. But if you walk to the back, you’ll find three energetic people fighting what’s inside them.

    “This is just warm up,” said Gary Schmitz as he jumps rope.

    It’s all a part of the strength, balance and reflex workout that helps push back the symptoms of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.

    Symptoms Stacy Christopher is familiar with. She was diagnosed 4-and-a-half years ago.

    “Started tremoring in my right hand. Had trouble holding, squeezing, applying pressure while brushing my teeth,” said Christopher.

    She says the first years were the worst.

    “The first couple of years are probably the hardest cause you think that your life is over and it’s never going to be good again,” said Christopher.

    Tina Hargrove has the same energy as Christopher and never thought she’d be working out like a boxer.

    “They noticed that I couldn’t swing my arm when I walk," said Hargrove. "And my eye blinking was really slow which is a symptom that I had never heard of before. I didn’t know anything about Parkinson’s disease until I was diagnosed.”

    Now back to Gary Schmitz who was diagnosed 10 years ago. He’s paired this workout with a new diet and is seeing great results.

    “I have cut my medication in half of what I used to take last year,” said Schmitz.

    Keeping them all in motion is two time world champ Paulie Ayala.

    “They’re fighting two battles. They are learning the boxing and they are fighting the Parkinson’s,” said Ayala.

    They can’t defeat the disease, only beat it back.

    “They are gaining confidence on themselves,” said Ayala.

    Showing us it’s not about what you win, but rather what you work not to lose.