Houston boxing gym helping Parkinson’s patients combat degenerative disease

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Throughout the United States, gym goers are combating the life-threatening symptoms of Parkinson's disease through boxing. Lou Savarese knows all about it. He owns two boxing gyms in Houston,

"It's a little bit more catered to professionals, so over here we have a little bit more of an eclectic group of people," Savarese said.

Savarese's background in the sport is extensive. A former professional boxer in the the Bronx, New York, his career has taken him all over the country and eventually landed him right here in Houston with his wife and three kids.

He's had a lot of influential boxers to follow during his career, but there is one that stands out. Savarese said Muhammad Ali is his favorite fighter and his feelings toward the iconic boxer go farther than just what he did in the ring.

Before he died, Ali suffered from Parkinson's, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement.

That's why patients with the disorder often take up boxing, like Ali did, to counteract the symptoms.

"It's very cerebral you have to listen...the person who's holding the pads is the trainer and you have to listen to the trainer and you have to locate the pad, hit the actual pad, and so there's a lot going on," Savarese said.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, intense "forced" exercise for Parkinson's patients can actually be what they call "neuro-protective" or slow down disease progression.

Savarese Fight Fit classes offer non-contact classes specifically designed for people with the disease, and he's glad to have his hands full with a growing list of patients.

"There's probably 16 at the most," Savarese said. "It's cool so you have three trainers so there is a lot more personal attention."

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