Boxing provides a full body workout and a memory boost

Boxing workouts amount to so much more than just hitting a bag. They’re good for the core, and the punching sequences require mental engagement that sticks with participants long after class is over.

“To me, the boxing combinations — that’s what makes the class unique — in a way, it’s kind of like a game because as you get better, you get faster and start landing all your shots,” boxing fitness participant Lainie Dahlberg told the AJC recently. “It’s a brain workout, to me, where other things don’t have that … They’re like small victories when you land them all and get faster … I do feel like, sometimes, when I come out of that class, ‘OK, now I can go do my banking make my phone calls, do what I need to do, and then, obviously, hitting a punching bag is always a good destresser.”

David Mahaffey, fitness manager at Buckhead retirement community Peachtree Hills Place, supported that feeling.

“It helps you continue to stay focused,” he said of the head-and body-shot sequences.

Mahaffey oversees boxing classes two days a week for PHP residents in conjunction with The Center For Movement Challenges, a nonprofit. The program includes an iteration for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

A full-body workout

Boxing, Mahaffey said, provides the full-body experience some other forms of fitness can’t, and it’s also good for people who can’t participate in some other activities.

“Because of the moments, you’re going to work from your core from your back to your stomach and also just for cardiovascular reasons,” he said. “Maybe they might not be able to get on the treadmill or bike, but doing the boxing is just very great cardio intake as well.”

Workouts for PHP participants typically include work with one of eight bags, Mahaffey said, and they sometimes practice punching sequences with instructors wearing pads.

Dahlberg, 57, said she finds boxing fitness classes, which often include specific cardio components and strength training alongside the boxing combinations, more engaging and fun than other forms of exercise.

“Especially, for aging, It’s such a core workout,” she said. “And that’s really the most important thing as we age because it affects our balance and everything. It’s a lot more fun to hit a punching bag to work your core.”

She stopped working out during COVID-19 but returned to boxing recently and found it was still a fit.

“I went from working out six days a week to zero days a week for three years, so I knew I had to start slowly, and it had to be something fun,” she said.

Her journey began several years ago in an advanced class.

“Everyone was really nice because I was just, like, a fish out of water,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

She participated for six months, and then, someone mentioned an all-women’s class, which she joined. She met instructor Maria Meritt there and followed her eventually to the senior boxing class at AFighter4Life boxing gym in southeast Atlanta. Joining that age demographic for workouts, Dahlberg said, was an adjustment initially, but it turned out to be the right decision.

“It was a bitter pill when I was like, ‘Oh, senior boxing. Well, I’m over 55. I qualify.’ But it was really where I need to be,” she said.

Marked improvements

The PHP boxing program, which has been in place since December of last year, also includes a walking warmup — a couple of laps around the facility’s croquet lawn — along with squats and handbag work. Mahaffey is seeing the long-term benefits for participants who range in age from 60 to 75.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“I have one member — before he actually started the boxing — his cognitive issues where he wouldn’t have talked at all, but now, since he’s participating in the boxing for Parkinson’s since December, he now talks,” Mahaffey said. “He actually puts words with sentences … Before he started, he couldn’t really say my name. Since he’s been in this program, he’s like, ‘Hey, David. How are you doing? It’s great to see you.’”

Another member’s reflexes and movement have improved so much that they’re able to attend other classes.

“They’re able to move around, play croquet, yoga now, strength and balance class — it’s been wonderful,” Mahaffey said.

Try boxing:

What: Punching Parkinson’s with Peachtree Hills Place and the American Parkinson Disease Association — a free boxing class, smoothie bar, and information session for those who have Parkinson’s Disease or other movement challenges

When: Tuesday, June 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Where: The Terraces at Peachtree Hills Place, 229 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Atlanta.

How: Register by emailing or calling (678) 619-5600.


What: AFighter4Life senior boxing class

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