4 Hours of Exercise Every Week May Help Delay Progression of Parkinson’s

The results of a study suggest that individuals who have early-stage Parkinson’s disease that got 1 to 2 hours of moderate exercise regularly twice every week, such as gardening or walking, could have less difficulty in walking, balancing, and performing day to day activities later on. It was found that individuals exercising regularly over 5 years performed better on cognitive tests and also had slower disease progression in a number of aspects.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000013218

The results indicate it’s never too late for a person with Parkinson’s to embark on an exercise program for improving the course of the disease. The researchers found that it was more important for individuals with Parkinson’s in maintaining an exercise program to impede disease progression than it was to be active at the time of disease onset.

The study involved 237 individuals with a median age of 63 who had early-stage Parkinson’s and were followed for up to 6 years. The exercise levels of the participants were established at the beginning of the study by making use of a questionnaire that measures intensity and time during the preceding week of leisure activity such as biking and walking; occupational activity such as taking care of others: and household activity such as gardening. Standard cognitive tests were made use of for measuring memory and verbal skills and how long it took to finish mental tasks.

It was revealed that physical activity level at the beginning of the study wasn’t associated with Parkinson’s progression later on. It was instead found that maintaining physical activity over time was more important.

Individuals who managed to get a minimum of 4 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise every week such as dancing or walking had a slower decline in walking and balancing 5 years later, in comparison to individuals who didn't get that much exercise. A common test was made use of for rating each individual’s symptoms of Parkinson’s on a scale of 0 to 4, with higher scores an indication of more severe impairment. Individuals who had less than the average level of moderate to vigorous exercise had an increase in scores from an average of 1.4 to 3.7 in 6 years in comparison to individuals with above-average levels of moderate to vigorous exercise, who increased scores from 1.4 to 3.0 on average in 6 years.

The researchers made use of a common paper-and-pencil cognitive test used for measuring mental processing speed. The individual has 90 seconds for matching numbers with geometric figures with a maximum possible score of 110. Individuals who performed less than an average of 15.5 hours of work every week dropped from a 44 to a 40 on the test 6 years later in comparison to a drop in score from 44 to 43 on average for individuals with more than 15.5 hours of work in the same time.

While medications can provide some relief of symptoms for individuals with Parkinson’s, there is no evidence that they slow disease progression. This study showed that regular physical activity could help improve the disease course in the long run. The study doesn't prove that adhering to an exercise program will delay Parkinson’s, it merely reveals an association.

Parkinsons Exercise Recommendations Infographic

Image Source – acsm

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