NEWTOWN >> Seniors and boxing sounds like an unusual combination. But to The Birches at Newtown, a senior living community in Newtown, and its on-site therapy services provider, FOX Rehabilitation, the collaboration was a no brainer.

The six-week non-combat boxing program was designed to help relieve bradykinesia, tremors and rigidity, and other movement symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, and as an opportunity to fulfill the next step in the rehabilitation process for residents and clients living with the neurodegenerative disorder.

Techniques introduced throughout the 30-minute sessions held Tuesdays and Thursdays at The Birches include sparring, high-intensity cardiovascular stamina training and exercises focusing on lower extremity strength.

“We know living with a progressive neurological disease like Parkinson's, there will always be a need to maintain functional abilities. The Birches’ boxing program allows for ongoing high-intensity training to maintain the cardiovascular, neurological and pulmonary systems of our residents and clients,” said Fox Optimal Living Rehab Director Brendan Black PT, DPT, GCS.

Exercising to maintain balance, mobility and other abilities has become an essential part of managing the symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s disease, which is known to affect dopamine-producing neurons that are responsible for controlling movement and emotional responses. Some studies have shown that exercise reduces the possibility of dopamine neurons becoming damaged.

A physical and occupational therapist, as well as an exercise physiologist instruct each non-combat boxing session. Participants use a heavy bag and speed bags to vary intensity, and punching mitts are used by the course leaders to allow for varied combinations.

“Participants are also encouraged to count aloud as often as possible to maintain respiratory function and improve breathing,” said Black.

With consistency, participants can expect to maintain their function over the course of the program.

Outcomes are measured by a five-time sit-to-stand and gait speed tests that are used to predict risk of falls, and a two-minute step test to measure cardiovascular stamina.

“Everything is easier after boxing,” said J.C. Rickabaugh, resident at The Birches at Newtown. “I walk better and move better.”

If you or a loved one living with Parkinson’s disease is interested in joining the next six-week program beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 12:45 p.m., please contact The Birches by calling 215-497-7400.

The Birches, Newtown, offers Personal Care and Memory Care in a unique retirement community. Residences are available on an affordable month-to-month lease with no buy-in fees. Resident services include meals, housekeeping, social events and transportation. For more information about The Birches, please call 215-497-7400, or visit

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