ONLY ON 13 NEWS: Group of local men battling Parkinson's fight b - – Rockford’s News Leader

ONLY ON 13 NEWS: Group of local men battling Parkinson's fight back against the disease through boxing classes


Two years ago John Zanacco was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  He says doctors gave him a piece of advice. 

"They all said you have to exercise," says Zanacco.  "So I needed to pick up the pace."

He says doctors told him intense exercise is the only thing that slows down the progression of the disease.  He had an interest in boxing, and with the help of his Parkinson's support group, they started a boxing for Parkinson's class in Loves Park.

"This is picking up the pace," says Zanacco.  

In the six months that the class has run, John says he sees a difference. 

"I've backed off medications now since I've starting the boxing. My tremor is still here, but nothing else has advanced since we've started this. It's not just the physical, the intense physical. But it's also the mental, to know which punch to throw where.  It's exercising your mind as well as your body."

Class organizer Linda Palmer says on top of the mental and physical benefits, the social aspect is amazing to see. 

"It doesn't matter if they're high functioning, low functioning, it doesn't matter. They all care about each other. It's huge, they look forward to it.  They don't want to miss. If someone isn't here they want to know why.The boxing, I think, helps them normalize."

Coaches say it was trial and error to find a workout plan that was a knockout. 

"If they lean too far forward they'll fall down, lean too far to the sides they fall down," says coach Chris Johnson.  "So we do a lot of mobility and balance exercises." 

Johnson says students have gotten into the swing of things. 

"They really get a lot of enjoyment out of punching and kicking. I honestly think they get more enjoyment when we're holding the shields and they get to punch and kick us a little bit."

For Zanacco, the class is a one-two punch. 

"It's fighting back against it and the camaraderie with this group of people."

The classes are free and open to anyone who's interested.  All levels of skill and diagnosis are accepted.  The group is hosting a fundraiser. You can find more information on that here

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