Even a Little Exercise May Help Slow Parkinson’s

Thursday, January 13, 2022 — A new study suggests that exercising a few hours a week may help slow Parkinson’s disease, even if it’s just a moderate activity like walking or gardening.

The researchers found that the key is to be consistent.

“Although the drugs can relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease somewhat, they have not been shown to slow the progression of the disease,” said study author Dr Kazuto Tsukita of Kyoto University in Japan.

“We found that regular physical activity, including household tasks and moderate exercise, may actually improve the long-term course of the disease,” he said. “Best of all, exercise is low cost and has few side effects.”

Tsukita and his team assessed the physical activity of 237 people (mean age: 63) with early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Participants were followed for up to six years.

While their activity levels initially did not affect the development of Parkinson’s disease, those who did moderate to vigorous exercise while being regularly followed up at least four hours a week had slower declines in balance and ability to walk than those who were less active.

The patients’ Parkinson’s disease symptoms were rated on a scale of 0 to 4, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms, according to findings published online Jan. 12. Neurology.

Average scores among those with below-average levels of moderate to vigorous exercise (less than one to two hours, once or twice per week) increased from 1.4 to 3.7 over six years. This compared with a less than 1.4 to 3 score increase among those with above-average levels of moderate to vigorous exercise.

“Our results are exciting, as they suggest that it may never be too late for a person with Parkinson’s disease to begin an exercise program to improve the course of their disease,” Tsukita said in a news release.

The researchers found that to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, it was more important for people to maintain an exercise program than to be active in the onset of the disease.

The study did not prove that regular exercise would prevent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but only an association.

The study also found that Parkinson’s patients who averaged less than 15.5 hours per week had a greater decrease in mental processing speed than those who averaged more.

Resources

  • Neurology, press release, January 12, 2022

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