Rock Steady Boxing in Baltimore!

Rock Steady Boxing is the first gym in the country dedicated to the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Their program is based on exercises that are largely adapted from boxing drills. With this program, Parkinson’s disease is the opponent. Rock Steady provides a certification for coaching. Patty completed this training and is now ready to offer this incredible program to people in Baltimore waging the fight against Parkinson’s disease.

Our Coaches

Pattie Wessles, Head Coach

Pilar Benassi

Sara Seltzer

Patty Wessels, PT, had been boxing for exercise for 5 years. As a PT, she appreciated the all around benefits of boxing: rotational movement patterns, agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength. She began incorporating her experience with boxing into her treatments with clients who had movement disorders. She noticed a remarkable change in her client’s compliance with home exercises and the enthusiasm during a treatment session. In the Fall, there was a feature on Rock Steady Boxing, an Indianapolis based non-contact boxing program specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative movement disorder, which can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates there are more than 1 million people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year. Exercises vary in purpose and form but share one common trait: they are rigorous and intended to extend the perceived capabilities of the participant.

Research in the area of boxing and Parkinson’s disease is relatively new, but the results provide early validation of the effects of forced or intense exercise. A longitudinal study, utilizing the program participants at Rock Steady Boxing, is pending publication. Dr. Stephanie Combs-Miller and colleagues from the University of Indianapolis conducted this study. The study, “A Longitudinal Analysis of Impairment, Activities and Participation in Persons with Parkinson’s Disease” led by Dr. Stephanie Combs-Miller will be released soon. It is a 2-year study that followed 88 people with Parkinson’s and studied theirexercise habits and how that affects their symptoms. While the print version of this study isnot yet released, Dr. Combs-Miller’s video presentation on her study can be found here: Watch Video below to learn even more!

Mind Body offers three 75-minute classes per week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The outline for each class is as follows:

  •  Dynamic full body stretching
  • Teaching proper boxing technique
  • Practice of classic boxing drills
  • Circuits of full or partial body weight resistance training, core training and
    functional movement training
  • Full body stretching sequence

How the program works:

Each participant is individually assessed and placed in a class, level 1-4. The classification is based on the Hoehn & Yahr Stages, a person’s overall fitness, balance and stability.

Level 1 and 2 are higher intensity classes that will focus on higher-level balance activities and stability activities, similar to what is found at most boxing gyms.

Level 3 and 4 are mild to moderate intensity with modifications that allow all individuals to participate fully in the program. The larger focus in these groups are functional movement patterns, general strength, flexibility and fun.

A head coach and an assistant coach run the classes, with volunteers present to ensure good technique and safety. With the level 3 and 4 classes, each participant will need to have a “corner man” come with them to class. The corner man is there to further ensure safety. This person can be a partner, spouse, adult child, and friend or care provider.

One of the intangibles of this program, regardless of the level, is the camaraderie of the participants who are all fighting the fight against Parkinson’s.

For more information, please email Patty at:, or call:

Other Published Research:

  • Combs, Stephanie A., Diehl, M. Dyer, Staples, William H., Conn, Lindsay, Davis, Kendra, Lewis, Nicole, Schaneman, Katie. Boxing Training for Patients With Parkinson’s disease: A Case Series. Physical Therapy, Vol. 91 – No. 1, pp.1-11, January 2011. This is an observational study of Rock Steady Boxing training in six participants. After 12 weeks of training there were measurable improvements in gait, balance, and quality of life. Participants with milder Parkinson’s improved sooner than patients with move severe Parkinson’s symptoms.
  • Hirsch, M. A., Farley, B.G. Exercise and neuroplasticity in persons living with Parkinson’s disease. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation, Vol.45 – No. 2, pp.215-228, June 2009. Ahlskog, Ph.D. M.D. J. Eric. Does vigorous exercise have a neuroprotective effect in Parkinson disease? American Academy of Neurology, Neurology 2011, pp 288-294, July 27, 2011. Two excellent reviews of the human and animal research which shows the impact of exercise on brain function in PD. Both reviews focus on the importance of vigorous or high intensity exercise for Parkinson’s disease.
  • Ridgel, Angela L., Vitek, Jerrold L., Alberts, Jay L. Forced, Not Voluntary, Exercise Improves Motor Function in Parkinson’s Disease Patients. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, vol. 23 – No. 6, pp 600-608, July/August, 2009. Tandem bicycle study in which subjects either rode at their chosen rate, or rode a rate higher than their chosen rate. Tension was adjusted and oxygen consumption measured so that both groups expended the same amount of energy. However, the group that rode at the higher rate had greater improvements in PD symptoms.