The combination of jabbing, punching bags and Parkinson's might sound odd but a new specialised boxing class is proving its worth to Rotorua sufferers of the condition.

National organisation Counterpunch Parkinson's held its second Rotorua class yesterday with eight people with Parkinson's and their supporters heading along to the Parksyde Community Hall for the non-contact boxing class.

The supervised, high intensity classes have been proven to ease symptoms and improve the quality of life of sufferers.

Some members of the class said tremors had gone away for an hour after the class. Photo / Cira Olivier
Some members of the class said tremors had gone away for an hour after the class. Photo / Cira Olivier

Counterpunch Parkinson's founder and head coach Lisa Gombinsky Roach has worked in Parkinson's exercise professionally through education and personal training for 20 years.

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Counterpunch is the first boxing treatment for the condition in New Zealand and was created by Gombinsky Roach's as she was inspired by the widely successful Rock Steady Boxing in the United States.

Rotorua has two accredited volunteer coaches, head coach Tony and coach Bin.

"We're doing it for them. We're not doing it for us, there's no money involved," coach Bin said.

She was excited to see the programme taking off and hearing of the benefits to those with Parkinson's.

Eight fighters were at the second free class, learning exercises to help with their overall quality of life. Photo / Cira Olivier
Eight fighters were at the second free class, learning exercises to help with their overall quality of life. Photo / Cira Olivier

Parkinson's is a progressive neurodegenerative condition with both motor and non-motor symptoms affecting one in 500 people in New Zealand.

The motor symptoms include tremors, stiffness and slow movement while the non-motor symptoms included pain, sleep problems, depression and slowness of movement.

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The exercises are largely adapted from boxing drills as boxers trained for the same reason Parkinson's patients did; for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye co-ordination, footwork and strength.

As is with boxing, Counterpunch has an opponent to fight - Parkinson's and its debilitating effects.

Coach Bin said she and coach Tony encouraged the class to yell out "jab" and "cross" as they jabbed and stepped as exercising vocals was just as important to help with slurring.

She said the classes were run to show the fighters, and their supporters, boxing-style exercises they could do at home.

"It's all about giving them back their quality of life," she said.

Geoff Loveridge was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2007 and said the condition had taken away his ability to do some of his greatest joys.

Loveridge use to run and bike in 100km races but his Parkinson's had forced him to give it up.

He also had to give up work four years after his diagnosis and said the benefits of the classes were enormous.

"It's social. It's you out and doing something and you can meet other people."

Parkinson's suffers often limit their socialising and one woman said the condition was socially isolating.

She said it was a combination of not wanting people to see the tremors, getting tired quickly and a lack of motivation which contributed to the social isolation.

Several participants said it was good to be with people who knew exactly what they were going through.

Hospital physician Richard Newbury had taken his father to the introductory session three weeks ago and said although he knew it would be beneficial, he was surprised by how much better his father was in a short time.

Newbury said his 80-year-old father, Paul, was diagnosed with the condition three years ago and his quality of life had deteriorated.

He said the physical, mental and social benefits of the classes were amazing, and as a doctor who ran, said the benefits of exercise, in his opinion was phenomenal.

"I'm super excited about it actually. It makes me a bit emotional. I have a four-month-old girl and I didn't think he'd get to meet her a few years ago, let alone hold her," said Newbury.

He said it was changing peoples lives in a dramatic way and wished more people knew about it and he said his father had been smiling and talking to more people.

He said his father had recently increased his medication as well as starting the weekly classes and was now flying out the chair when previously he could not.

The weekly classes are free for anyone with Parkinson's and their support that come along.

Counterpunch Parkinson's Rotorua
- About 180 people in the Central Plateau live with the condition
- All weekly classes in 2019 are free for those with Parkinson's and their support people
- Direct all inquiries for the classes and programme to cpprotorua@gmail.com or call 022 133 7432