People with Parkinson’s disease who participated in a non-contact boxing program reported better quality of life and greater confidence in their ability to continue exercising than did non-participants, a new study has found.

The program, called Rock Steady Boxing, offers people with Parkinson’s personalized, 90-minute coaching sessions with the goal of gaining strength, speed, agility, endurance, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and accuracy, according to the researchers. 

When surveyed, most participants reported improvement in several quality-of-life areas, said lead author Danielle Larson, M.D., a neurologist at Northwestern University. Compared to their peers who didn’t box, fully 70% reported a better social life, 63% reported less fatigue and 62% said that they were less afraid of falling. A majority said that they experienced an improved mood, and that they were less anxious. In addition, more than 90% said that they would recommend the program to others with Parkinson’s.

“Moderate exercise has long been associated with having a positive impact on some people with Parkinson’s,” Larson said. “But the outcome of this specific regimen seems particularly favorable for the majority of people,” she concluded.

The preliminary study will presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting in April in Toronto.