Noncontact Boxing Exercise Assessed for Parkinson Disease Benefit


The FIGHT-PD study is expected to complete and read out interim results before the end of 2021. It aims to assess the exercise program’s safety, tolerability, and efficacy in Parkinson disease.

David Blacker, MD, neurologist and medical director of the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, patient with PD

David Blacker, MD

The design protocol of a trial aimed at identifying if a noncontact boxing exercise program can improve movement and quality of life for individuals with Parkinson disease (PD), has been presented at the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) Virtual Congress 2021, September 17-22.1

The trial is dubbed FIGHT-PD. It has received ethics approval, and screening has commenced, with some interim results expected to be available before the end of 2021. According to a release, COVID-19 delayed the start of the study, but it is expected to finish in September 2021.2

Preliminary evidence suggests that this method of exercise may offer a potential benefit for PD, although the existing trials “lack [a] detailed description of component elements and documentation of exercise intensity” and that “there are few data on heart rate targets and rates of perceived exertion; information which is critical for quantifying dose,” poster author David Blacker, MD, said in his presentation.1

Blacker, who is a neurologist and medical director of the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, is also a patient with PD. The design protocol was developed by Blacker alongside a professional boxing trainer, Rai Fazio, as well as a neurophysiotherapist and exercise physiologists.

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“This trial should provide essential details to plan future exercise studies utilizing non-contact boxing, including descriptions of specific exercises required to meet heart rate targets and levels of perceived physical and mental exertion. Thresholds for forced exercise will be determined,” the group wrote.

FIGHT-PD is planned to take place over the course of 15 weeks, consisting of 3 workouts per week lasting 30-60 minutes. They are to be conducted in a trio of 4-week blocks separated by an active recovery week. The first block focuses on technique; the second block escalates the physical intensity, and the third block adds cognitive challenges. Feasibility details including recruitment, retention, and adherence rates will also be measured by the group.

The study is anticipated to monitor the rate of perceived physical and mental exertion (RPE) via the Borg scale, and heart rate would be recorded by Polar monitors. Blacker et al. plan to administer standardized PD scales—specifically, the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale—and a body chart discomfort scale to monitor the development of pain or injuries. “These observations will provide the primary outcomes of tolerability and safety, and secondary outcomes of quantified heart rate as a measure of exercise intensity, and quality of life measure including mood, sleep, and fatigue,” Blacker et al. wrote.

“Boxing movements are perfect for Parkinson’s patients, but to avoid the risk of injury and to maximize benefit, it is essential that such exercises are done correctly,” Blacker said in a press release.2 “Rai Fazio’s expertise and generosity in this partnership has been invaluable in developing the boxing exercise program we are currently studying. In the literature, there is a big gap in our knowledge. We’re gathering data to show the benefit of noncontact boxing as an exercise therapy for people with Parkinson’s.”

According to the release, the program has thus far improved balance, fitness and overall wellbeing for participants, with 1 participant is now running again after previously losing the ability.1

For more coverage of MDS 2021, click here.

1. Blacker D, Fazio R, Tucak C, Turner M, Rajandran S, Cruickshank T. Feasibility of Instituting Graduated High-Intensity Training (FIGHT-PD); Protocol for a non-contact boxing exercise study. Presented at: MDS Congress 2021; September 17-22; Virtual. Poster 368.
2. Boxing for Parkinson’s study in full swing. News release. Perron Institute. Published 2021. Accessed September 17, 2021.
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