Storytellers: Boxing helping Parkinson's patients

9NEWS at 10 p.m. 5/13/16.

KUSA - When you first walk into the Denver Red Shield Gym you've really got to do a double take.  

The facility's basement is filled with mostly senior citizens boxing.   

One of the youngest people taking this Power Punch class is Richard Lurie. He's 49 years old. What's most extraordinary about him, is that when he first joined the class he could barely walk.

"I fell on my knees a lot," Lurie said.

Many times he had to rely on a cane or walking sticks to get around. The disease also makes it difficult for him to talk.

The man who started this class is Rick Schwartz. The 69-old- has Parkinson's too and said he knew helping Lurie stand on his own would be tough.

He described what Lurie looked like in the beginning

"We got him in the ring and he'd throw a punch and he'd go down. We had to get behind him so when he fell we could pick him up again."

Anthony Mora is a professional boxer who teaches the class. For the entire hour, students nearly twice his age, punch, jump, skip and break a sweat. The quick movements help Parkinson's patients learn how to keep from falling. 

Margie Dahlin is in the class too. She worries that someday she may not be able to feed herself or get dressed on her own.  But for now she says, one of her biggest fears is falling.  She said, "...if you fall and break a hip... you're sunk." 

Schwartz says the class is making a big difference.

"Because people walk in here and they're getting better. I don't know how long it will last but I think as long as they work hard and exercise, they'll continue to get better at least than they were." 

That's certainly the case for Lurie, who had trouble standing in the ring when he first started. 

7 months after beginning his Power Punching routine, he stunned the class. 

"I saw him coming through the door. No canes. No walking sticks. Nothing. He walked upright like this. Big smile on his face. He's a different human being. "

Now, Lurie only rarely has to use a cane or poles.

"My whole body has changed actually. I've gained a lot of muscle mass and weight.  When I first started I couldn't do one pull up. Now I do three sets of 10," Lurie said.

That's something even a person without the disease, would struggle to accomplish. 

While Lurie can't stop the progression of his Parkinson's, he's at least winning a few rounds.  

It's proof, he says, Power Punching works.   

For more information, visit: http://www.parkinsonrockies.org/


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