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Boxing helps patients with Parkinson's disease at Carilion Wellness

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Shields Jarrett is one of multiple Parkinson's patients who is benefiting from a new Carilion program involving boxing.

"I played sports all my life," said Jarrett, who now struggles with the progressive disease. "It's pretty tough, because I've got a balance problem, and I've fallen a lot of times in the last couple of years."

Since his Parkinson's diagnosis, a disease that affects movement, Jarrett said his life has never been the same, "You can't do all the things you used to do."

Since entering the program, he has fallen in love with sports, all over again.

"This place gives you a chance to get out of the house you know, and see some people that can understand," explained Jarrett.

Clinical Training Manager Patrick Dunham, of Carilion Wellness, said he challenges patients to stay active and keep moving.

"When you think of high-intensity forms of exercise, you wouldn't think of someone with a chronic condition to be doing those types of exercise," said Dunham.

The Carilion Wellness Team has incorporated high-intensity exercises like boxing, spinning and strength training.

But Jarrett's greatest love is punching the heavy bag, "I can take aggression out on the bag," he said with enthusiasm.

Dunham said all the skills that are typically diminished through aging and Parkinson's, are going to be improved through these activities.

The program is now in high demand. It started with 12 patients.

"Now there are some 25 people coming in on a consistent basis several times a week," says Dunham.

Participation in the class is through a doctor's referral.