DALLAS — Three times a week at Extreme Studio Performance in Dallas, a group gets together to box. They're part of Rock Steady Boxing, a nonprofit exercise program made specifically for people with Parkinson's disease.
Husband and wife, Austen and Mallory Spoonts, brought Rock Steady Boxing to Dallas and Southlake in 2019. The boxing routines help address balance, strength, agility, walking, gait patterns and more.
"Our boxers have gotten stronger and better at many aspects of their life and that is what keeps them coming back," Austen said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the workouts stopped for a while, but the Spoonts brought it back knowing how important it is for their fighters' quality of life.
Mallory, a physical therapist, leads the exercises.
"I think for a lot of them, it gives them some kind of hope, and gives them something that they can do to fight this disease," she said.
Larry Kiser is one of the Rock Steady fighters. He's 74 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's last December.
For many years, Kiser watched his father struggle with the same illness. "My dad ended up in a scooter, and couldn't talk," he said. "When I see those that are more advanced, it just makes me work harder."
He was surprised how much Rock Steady Boxing helped him physically improve.
"In March, I went back to the doctor and he said whatever you're doing, keep it up because exterior appearances were gone as far as the trembling and things," he said.
Kiser feels stronger and hopes this will prevent his Parkinson's symptoms from advancing quickly.
Another fighter is John Thompson. He's 78 years old and has known about his Parkinson's disease for 13 years. He said the last year of the pandemic has been difficult.
"Parkinson's has been a real huge issue in our lives. I've deteriorated quite a bit in the last year because of not exercising like I should," Thompson said.
He's grateful to be back boxing at Rock Steady Boxing.
"It's just a huge difference," Thompson said.
He understands the progression of the disease is inevitable. But if boxing can slow down the symptoms, he said it's worth fighting for.
"You can't stop it. You can certainly interfere with it by doing the right things," he said.