Valley boxing program helps people fight Parkinson's Disease

They have tremors, they move slower, they have Parkinson's Disease and they pack a mean punch.

These men and women are champion fighters in their own right with the will to win with a knockout.

"I can visualize the disease in front of me every time," Scott Wieczorek said. "I strike a blow and the harder I can hit, the more I'm pushing Parkinson's back. It may take everything in the end, but I'm not going down without a fight."

Scott Wieczorek was diagnosed with Parkinson's in his 30s.

"I used to be focused on ambition and climbing the ladder at work; now, I'm more focused on little victories," he said. "I know it sounds kind of crazy, but tying your shoes without taking five minutes is a successful event."

The Knockout Parkinson's boxing program gives him a sense of empowerment over the disease that has robbed him of his movement and coordination.

"I get a little out of it from the workout, but I think the psychological aspect, I get more out of it," he said.

The instructor is a professional who has trained competitive athletes in martial arts and boxing.

"There's a lot of cadenza, there's a tempo involved, so there's a lot of factors to consider to execute this particular drill," Nicolas Abramowicz said. "Especially for Parkinson's, it's very important to switch back from the left to the right, challenge those neuropathways."

He's put together an intense, fast-paced program with lateral shuffles and metronomes. It's a demanding routine even for those without the disease.

"A lot of the exercises we do are difficult to do in sequence, so moving is harder to do," Wieczorek said.

Director of the boxing program, Dr. Holly Shill says it's a unique program.

"It combines so many different aspects of exercise; there's strength training, agility, there's a cognitive component to boxing, so all of those things combined make it a unique program for people living with Parkinson's," she said. "It has been shown that doing that type of exercise actually does improve peoples' day-to-day function and reduces disability down the road.

Although there is no scientific research that shows the benefits of Boxing for Parkinson's patients, there is one role model: The legendary champion Muhammad Ali.

"He did start with Parkinson's Disease at a young age and obviously lived many, many years with it, so one has to wonder if in some ways his commitment to boxing actually helping him to do better with Parkinson's Disease," Dr. Shill said. "We're very, very proud to have this boxing program at our center as a tribute to Muhammad Ali."

There is no cure for Parkinson's Disease, but people in this group have the will to keep living and the ambition to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

"Exercise may slow progression down, but there's nothing that can stop it, at least I can give it all I have to prevent getting worse," Wieczorek said. "It's kind of symbolic, it's like fighting the disease, so every punch I can throw, every step I take, all the effort I put into it, Parkinson's can have everything eventually, but not now, I'm going to put up a fight.