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'Knock out Parkinson's' boxing class helps slow symptoms of disease

Tate Wheeler, a fitness coach, developed the class six years ago and currently offers it at the TITLE Boxing Lakeville location three times a week.

LAKEVILLE, Minn. — In the end, Brad Baker's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease wasn't all that bad. The Minnesota native was diagnosed in 2020, after he said he started to notice loss of movement in his hands, body tremors, and speech issues. But after a few months where he was "in denial," he said his life turned around.

"On a personal level, I take it as a positive," Baker said. "It’s been a positive experience for me, just having Parkinson’s believe it or not. I chose to take away the positives with the disease."

Baker's outlook is, in large part, due to his membership in a thrice-weekly class at TITLE Boxing in Lakeville, called "Knock Out Parkinson's." The class is aimed at targeting specific symptoms of the disease in order to slow the progression.

Baker said he's made other lifestyle changes too.

"I eat right, I get plenty of sleep and I exercise, and I’m more intentional about how I live my life," he said. "My appreciation for my wife and family have grown. My faith in God has grown stronger."

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"On a personal level, I take it as a positive," Brad Baker said of the disease.

Baker now has a second family at TITLE boxing, where he's joined by around five dozen others who also share the same diagnosis, attending the class both in person and over zoom.

Tate Wheeler, a fitness coach at TITLE, created the class six years ago. At the time, he had no personal connection to the disease. But research at the time showed boxing could slow the progression of symptoms.

"The first phone call I was taken aback because I hadn’t heard of boxing for Parkinson’s," Wheeler said. "And then immediately when [multiple callers] said this is a great way to battle the disease, we looked at it and I said, 'give me three months.'"

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 Wheeler then worked in conjunction with neurologists and experts from the Parkinson's Foundation to develop a course that targets multiple symptoms.

"The key to slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease is intense exercise. And the great thing about boxing is your hands are even with your heart, and you're elevating that heartrate," he said. "Parkinson’s tries to take your voice. We use our voice in class, we encourage yelling, counting."

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Wheeler said the class has given him more perspective.

"I believe that what I take for granted someone else is praying for," he said. "And no one chose Parkinson’s. This is a disease that’s hard on people and it slowly tries to take away your fight. And they’re a reminder – no matter what you’re fighting in life – that we need to keep fighting back."

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