Nancy Van Der Stracten learned of non-contact boxing as a way to slow down the degenerative disease, and now she's a regular in the gym.
Regular members at a gym in Turkey had their interest piqued when a 75-year-old woman walked into their midst. They assumed she'd come to pick someone up from the gym. Little did they know Nancy Van Der Stracten was there to practice boxing. They were shocked as she donned a pair of shiny boxing gloves and purple sneakers, before getting into the ring. They watched with their mouths agape as Stracten went about her business. Nancy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost six years back and has had severe symptoms of the disease, reported Reuters.
It was only recently that Nancy, a furniture designer and painter, learned the benefits of non-contact boxing. Nancy is a Belgian woman who lives in Turkey. She's been living in the Mediterranean province of Antalya for over 15 years. She discovered the benefits of non-contact boxing by chance while researching the disease. Since then she's been going to the gym three times a week and practicing her jabs. “It does not stop your Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease," she said. "It never stops but you can...slow it down.”
As non-contact boxing doesn't involve taking any punches, there is no risk of getting hurt, or worse, suffering head trauma. The 75-year-old is entirely focused on her movement and rhythm. While the other members of the gym were initially shocked, they've all warmed up to her and are good friends now. They affectionately call her Auntie Naciye. “If you are more than 50 years old they really look at you like this: ‘What are you coming to do here?’ But they are gentle from the heart, the Turks. So they let me do it,” said Nancy.
Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder and is a progressive disease. It affects millions of people worldwide and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States, reported Parkinson.org. The cause of the disease is still largely unknown and causes tremors and stiffness, making it difficult to walk and speak. The disease is not fatal but the complications that arise from it are often serious. “Studies have shown that non-contact boxing is good for the brain so it is good for Parkinson’s disease," said Geysu Karlikaya, a neurologist at Medicana Hospital in Istanbul. Karlikaya added that it improves the quality of life for patients. Nancy, who has found it easier to do housework since she started non-contact boxing, is a testament to that. “My doctor said one day, it is forbidden to you to sit down. Go on, go on, go on. And that is my counsel to everybody,” she said. “Go out to sport and do something that you like."
One other famous link between boxing and Parkinson's disease comes from none other than the great Muhammad Ali. The iconic boxer was first diagnosed with the degenerative disease in 1984, just three years after he quit the ring, reported CBS News. While it hasn't been proven, Ali's physician, Dr. Dennis Cope, suspected it was the blows to his head during his career as a boxer that eventually led to his health problems. "[Ali] has had a development of what's called Parkinson's syndrome. And from our testing on him, our conclusion has been that that has been due to pugilistic brain syndrome resulting from boxing," said Cope in 1996. Cope said Ali's cognitive function wasn't affected but he had developed a tremor and speech became increasingly difficult. "His mind is fine," said Cope. One of the moments Ali's disease really hit home was when his hands shook as he held the Olympic torch high at the start of the 1996 summer games in Atlanta. The actor Michael J. Fox was another famous personality who was diagnosed with the disease. He just 37 at the time.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Thomas Barwick (representational image)Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.