LARGO (FOX 13) - Not many adult living facilities have a boxing gym. However, The Palms of Largo has one because many of the people who live there are in the fight of their lives.
Parkinson's disease has stripped many of them of the simple things of life, so they are fighting back one uppercut at a time. Recent studies show exercise helps alleviate Parkinson's symptoms- and in some cases even reverses them. Parkinson's affects more than a million Americans and as many as 60,000 new people get diagnosed each year.
Francis O'Sullivan's Parkinson's caused bent spine syndrome. He says his improvement can be measured by just a little bit of eye contact.
"I'm looking at you, if you go back six months I was like this and I'm not looking at you, I could tell you if your shoes are shined!" he laughs.
Cheri Grey drives an hour to punch a heavy bag. She has regained abilities the disease had stolen from her.
"I have more strength, much better balance. I can scramble an egg," she explains.
Rock Steady Boxing now has over 200 locations worldwide. Director and coach Leah Einboden, who helped bring the program to Largo six months ago, says the benefits go past the physical.
"They know how each other is feeling, they aren't embarrassed if they are in class and they are punching and their hand is shaking because the person next to them has the same issue," she explains.
All the participants have a connection that allows each of them to understand the struggles only someone with Parkinson's can relate to.
"Before I started the boxing, I needed help getting dressed. I don't need that help anymore," says O'Sullivan.
Einboden explains, "That doesn't seem like a big deal to you and I, but for him and his dignity and how he feels about himself, that's a big accomplishment."
It's a room full of fighters getting their lives back one punch at a time.
"I'm rock steady, getting rock steadier all the time!" says Grey.
Rock Steady Boxing has programs for all types of Parkinson's patients, from the newly diagnosed to those in wheelchairs. Classes are $89 a month and that includes a membership to the gym located at The Palms of Largo adult living facility. For more information, visit http://thepalmsoflargo.com/campus-features/rock-steady-boxing/.