With every jab, cross and uppercut, participants in the Rock Steady Boxing program are fighting off the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

The rigorous Rock Steady boxing workout has proven to mitigate and in some cases reverse the effects of the neurological disease. Now, that program will be offered in Franklin.

Compass Park, the senior living community formerly known as the Indiana Masonic Home, will start offering Rock Steady Boxing in early May. Participants will go through a rotation of exercises such as hitting a heavy bag, working a speed bag and sparring with a trainer. They do sit-ups and planks to strengthen their core and pick up weighted balls to build muscle and improve balance.

Compass Park will offer an open house showcasing the program starting at 9 a.m. today. The event will be open to the public.

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With medical research proving Rock Steady Boxing’s effectiveness, Compass Park officials are excited to offer it as a local option for people with Parkinson’s.

“When you go into one of these gyms, and see the people in their 70s and 80s who are just going to town on punching bags or whatever they’re doing, and hear their stories, it really shows that it’s valuable,” said Mike Spencer, CEO of Compass Park.

Rock Steady Boxing is a non-contact fitness class that incorporates the punching and footwork of boxing training with exercises to improve balance, core strength and agility. Hundreds of affiliates offer the program around the world, including 40 in Indiana.

The organization was founded in Indianapolis in 2006 by Scott Newman, the former Marion County prosecutor who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 39.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative and relentless neurological disease, in which the brain produces increasingly less of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for allowing the brain to communicate to the muscles throughout the body, so as less becomes present, it becomes more difficult to move normally.

Studies done by Butler University and the University of Indianapolis have found that intense exercise, particularly the kind that forces people out of their comfort zones, can slow the progression of the disease. Boxing is one of the most intense forms of training there is, and with a coach pushing participants on, it has proven to be effective against Parkinson’s.

“The key is forced intense exercise, which is exercise that pushes you beyond your limits,” said Stephanie Moynihan, manager of the fitness center at Compass Park. “That’s especially found in boxing. Forced intense exercise has greatly improved or maintained the symptoms of Parkinson’s.”

Currently, the only Rock Steady Boxing program offered in Johnson County is offered at the Social of Greenwood. Other options include driving to Shelbyville, Columbus or the northside of Indianapolis.

When Compass Park leaders learned about the benefits of the program, they felt it would be an important addition to the community, Spencer said.

Part of what solidified the decision, at least for Spencer, was hearing the story of a resident of Compass Park who had Parkinson’s and had been driving to Shelbyville to do it.

“It had made such a difference for him, and we started talking and decided it was time to bring it here, if not only to improve the quality of life for residents on our own campus, but to open it up and improve quality of life for those afflicted with Parkinson’s in the greater Franklin community,” Spencer said.

Compass Park partners with HTS Therapy to provide fitness services and programming, and that staff initiated the application process with Rock Steady’s central organization, who then came to inspect the site where the sessions would be and approve the instructors who would be working with participants.

Fitness staff went through the program’s training academy to become certified, including 12 hours of training on two separate days so they could be proficient in how Parkinson’s works, how to use exercise to address it and how to lead people through the program.

Participants in the classes will go through a series of exercises, such as jumping rope, doing assisted push-ups and hitting a heavy bag with boxing gloves.

“We want people to work on their agility, their footwork, their concentration,” Moynihan said.

Compass Park has offered a variety of options through its fitness center on campus, including cardiovascular training and weight equipment, stretching exercise classes and a swimming pool with water aerobics.

The fitness offerings are open to older adults in the area, so anyone age 55 and older can take sign up and take advantage, Spencer said. More than 100 people from outside Compass Park take advantage of those services.

The public also will be able to take advantage of Rock Steady Boxing, Spencer said. Regular classes will be offered from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In addition, the fitness center at Compass Park also will be offering similar programs for people with Parkinson’s, including the Climb and Big and Loud exercises, Spencer said. Those will be available later in 2018.

“We decided to open everything up to the public. We felt that it would improve the quality of life of our residents, and those here in the community,” he said.

At a glance

Rock Steady Boxing

What it is: A non-contact boxing-inspired fitness routine that dramatically improves the ability of people with Parkinson’s disease to live independent lives.

Who can do it: Men and women of any age who have Parkinson’s are invited to participate. No boxing experience is necessary.

What it consists of: Overall fitness, strength training, reaction time and balance. Workouts include focus mitts, heavy bags, speed bags, double-ended bags, jump rope, core work, calisthenics and circuit weight work training.

Where: Compass Park community center, 690 State St., Franklin

When: Classes will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Prior to being able to take part in a class, participants need to go through an hour-long assessment to determine ability level. People who want to take part also need a doctor’s note confirming they have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Assessment sessions can be scheduled by calling 317-736-6141.

Information: compasspark.org

If you go

Rock Steady Boxing Open House

What: A public event to demonstrate and teach more about the Rock Steady Boxing program

When: 9 a.m. today

Where: Compass Park community center, 690 State St., Franklin

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.