When Mr Jerome Sanoner was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2019, he became depressed, not knowing what his life would be like.
Due to his age, neurologists advised the 60-year-old managing director to "go easy" on exercise, even though it could help to delay symptoms such as loss of muscle strength and balance.
After doing research, he found out about the positive effects of boxing on managing the condition, which is progressively degenerative in nature, and the Frenchman decided to give it a go.
Since he started training at boxing gym The Ring Boxing Community last August, Mr Sanoner has seen improvements in his speed, balance, rigidity and focus. He kicked off with one-on-one sessions with a private trainer before enrolling in intermediate group classes.
His Singaporean wife, Ms Susan Tan, 45, joined him last October and they now train together three times a week.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, she said: "He is a lot stronger, with more arm power, and he is happier because he has a lot of friends at the gym."
While intense workouts like boxing result in more dopamine being released - it enhances neurotransmission which Parkinson sufferers have trouble with - it also helps him to maintain a more positive mindset.
Coaches assess him every three months to determine his strengths and weaknesses, and provide him with the most suitable training.
Mr Ruchdi Hajjar, co-founder and co-owner of The Ring, explained that Mr Sanoner's training plan is specially designed to fit his physical condition. The gym tailors such a plan for every "special" member.
It has two other members with Parkinson's, with two more joining soon. Under the charity initiative The Ring Cares, the gym has partnered with SportCares to help at-risk youth with its Big Brother programme and has previously offered classes to children with Down syndrome.
Mr Hajjar said: "We want to show the benefits of boxing and break the perception that it is violent."
Parkinson Society Singapore (PSS) runs kickboxing classes in collaboration with kickboxing school Active Red, a member of the Kickboxing Federation of Singapore, at its premises in Bishan. Introduced in 2017, the weekly one-hour sessions are designed to help patients with overall fitness through the non-combative form of the sport.
Ms Teh Choon Ling, PSS' centre manager, said it has seen more people participating in the programme - from one class of 12 in 2017 to two classes of 10 and 16, on top of a waiting list, in 2019.
She told TNP: "We are happy because this means more are taking a positive approach to manage their condition and finding different ways to keep themselves active, be it physiotherapy, dance therapy, yoga or taiji, which we are offering at our centre too.
"The choices should also be safe and suitable, (corresponding) to the stage of Parkinson's at which the patients are."
She added: "Apart from maintaining their mobility, agility, balance and hand-eye coordination, kickboxing is often also a stress reliever for some, and definitely a confidence booster for most."
Source: The New Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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