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Kevin Moran

Boxing Against Parkinson’s

Kevin Moran knows that one of the most important things he can do to offset the challenges presented by Parkinson's Disease is to exercise. But the type of workout he needs is one that strengthens his balance, reduces brain fog and loosens muscles. He's found it, and more, through boxing.

A growing trend for people with Parkinson's, boxing helps them physically, mentally and emotionally. Studies have shown that high-intensity exercise, specifically boxing, helps with endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, agility and strength, and may slow the progression of the disease.

At HNH Fitness, Holy Name's medically-based center in Oradell, Kevin throws punches in complicated rotations, shifts his weight back and forth on his feet and wallops on either a big bag or his HNH Fitness trainer, Ron Oneill.

"He loves it – makes him feel good about himself,” said Kevin's wife, Linda Moran. "It's not only good for him physically but the social interaction is also important. Sometimes he struggles to find the right words when speaking, so having conversations with people at the gym is stimulating for him mentally and emotionally.”

Ten years ago, Kevin was 58 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. At the time, Linda noticed that Kevin wasn't swinging his arms when he walked and his movements were slow and deliberate. At that point, the condition was mild and Kevin stayed at that level of functioning for several years.

But as the years progressed, so did the disease. Kevin retired from his job in operations at a shipping company and worked a while for his brother's company until he turned 65. He also had to stop driving. But the most difficult loss was having to stop refereeing the high school basketball games he had been officiating for more than 40 years.

"Kevin had always been a good athlete, playing sports in high school, college and even in a men's softball league until he coached our kids' teams,” Linda said. "I think the hardest thing for him now is not being able to be as active as he was.”

Though Kevin tried to stay physically engaged, it was difficult. Then Linda said she "felt lucky" when she saw a newspaper article about HNH Fitness' boxing sessions specifically for people with Parkinson's. She immediately signed Kevin up, knowing this would be great for him.

"When you box, you have to shift your weight, judge distances because the target (me) is always moving, remember punch combinations and most importantly, how to breathe while you're doing all this," Oneill said. "Your brain is going a zillion miles an hour and that's so powerful for people with Parkinson's."

Linda said she sees the benefits in Kevin's life. While he still needs assistance with some of his daily activities, there is improvement in his walking, balance and endurance.

"Boxing with Ron at HNH Fitness has been wonderful for Kevin," Linda said. "He has renewed energy, strength, and a better quality of life."