Rock Steady Solutions

Local program and support group offer a one-two punch against Parkinson’s Disease

Published online: Sep 17, 2021 Articles, East Idaho Health Steve Smede
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We all experience challenges in life that can knock us off our feet. It’s just a question of whether—and how—to fight back.

For Scott Kent of Newdale, his bout began with a few warm-up rounds of neurological issues that he couldn’t seem to shake.

Scott was a truck driver by trade, working the Midwest oil fields, where he found himself around a lot of ticks. As his movement and balance issues emerged, he was led to suspect Lyme Disease. After a referral to a specialist from his family doctor, however, MRI tests revealed that he actually had Parkinson’s Disease.

The Mayo Clinic defines Parkinson's as a progressive disorder of the nervous system. It has no official cure, although some medications (and even surgery) can improve symptoms. Like many diseases, signs appear gradually, such as a slight tremor in one hand, stiffness in the limbs, slurred speech, impaired posture and balance problems.

“I was pretty depressed with the results,” Scott said. “I decided I was just going to sit down and watch TV until I died.”

Scott’s reaction was understandable and even to be expected. One of the more common complications in Parkinson’s early stages is depression. 

“That’s how I was feeling, just depressed,” he said. “I felt I couldn’t do anything for myself. My kids kept complaining to my wife, ‘What’s wrong with Dad?’ She said, ‘He won’t go back to the doctor.’ My feeling was, why even try? My oldest son even threatened to pick me up and carry me in if I wouldn’t go myself.”

Scott describes his worst symptom (other than controlling his hands and shaking all the time) is when he starts involuntarily walking backwards. 

“I just keep going until I hit a wall or trip over something,” he said. “It’s scary, especially falling. I’ve taken a lot of falls. With Parkinson’s, nobody’s the same. It makes it very frustrating.”

After some persuading, Scott did make it back to the doctor, who then sent him down to the University of Utah. Among other specialties, the college has a division that is dedicated to Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

“The doctors down there recommended physical therapy, so I started with Madison Memorial up in Rexburg, which definitely helped, as did getting back in shape,” Scott added.

In January of 2018, Scott went up to Spokane to visit his son, who told his father about a friend who was a boxer and belonged to a fitness club with a boxing class just for Parkinson’s patients.

“My first thought was, ‘Boxing? Wait, Muhammad Ali died of Parkinson’s because of boxing!’ But apparently it was unrelated,” he said. “When I got back home, I just Googled ‘Boxing for Parkinson’s therapy.” 

Conveniently, the top hit ended up being a local program in Idaho Falls at Club Apple (still known at that time as Apple Athletic). It was a brand new offering called “Rock Steady Boxing,” and its local organizer, personal trainer Sandi Gordon, had just barely started setting up classes. 

The program began with Sandi and just five participants, but quickly got a boost from local news coverage. Scott immersed himself in the program. He even became a certified Rock Steady coach and helped establish a local support group.

After the club was shut down for 7 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new group had the Idaho Falls team of RehabAuthority come in to provide a program specifically for Parkinson’s.

“It was a great fit,” Scott said. “I was still doing the boxing, but decided to do the 4-week course as well. It all went really well together.”

The focus on therapies is through forced exertion, which helps with movements that you lose with Parkinson’s. RehabAuthority utilizes a program called LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment). 

The treatment setup has at least two distinct flavors. One is LSVT LOUD, which is more specific to speech pathology. The other is LSVT BIG, designed to address movement deficiencies by improving small and large motor movements.

Add in some balance training, and that’s where Rock Steady Boxing comes in.

The RBS concept began in 2006 by Scott Newman—who has Parkinson’s—and his friend Vince Perez, who just happened to be a Golden Gloves boxer. The program formed after they discovered studies that showed how certain types of rigorous exercise could have a positive effect on range of motion, flexibility, posture, gait and more. 

According to the program’s FAQ page, specific workouts range from “ring work to focus mitts, heavy bags, speed bags, double-ended bags, jump rope, core work, calisthenics and circuit weight training. No boxing experience is necessary and people of all ages can participate. There are four different levels of classes offered, depending on the participants' level of Parkinson’s and their overall fitness.”

The sheer number of studies and programs may be a little overwhelming to some, but for Scott, it can all be filed under Good Problem to Have.

“Just on the internet, there’s more reading than anybody can do,” he said, adding that when you actually pare it all down, simple physical fitness is the best possible therapy there is—”anything that can get you pumping your heart, breaking a sweat or practicing movements.”

For his own progress, Scott credits the programs as well as the support group for keeping his progress on track and his spirits high. 

“Having gone from not being able to do anything for myself to becoming almost fully functional, it has been an absolute miracle,” he said. “I would say, just never give up. This is a scary disease, but if you’re struggling, just know there are great programs and people you can reach out to.” 

For More Information

Rock Steady Boxing at Club Apple

2030 Jennie Lee Drive 208-529-8600


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