Benefits of exercise in early Parkinson’s disease

 More intense exercise appears to have greater benefits.

That the conclusion from this study at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

First, the details.

  • 30 people with Parkinson’s disease diagnosed in the past 3 years participated.
  • They had symptoms on one or both sides of the body and no difficulty walking.
  • They were randomly assigned to 3 treatment groups.
    • High-intensity exercise using body weight-supported treadmill training
    • Low-intensity exercise
    • A zero-intensity education group
  • The 2 exercise groups completed 24 exercise sessions over 8 weeks.
  • The zero-intensity group completed 6 education classes over 8 weeks.

And, the results.

  • All groups experienced small improvement in the total score of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale and in the motor section of that scale.
  • Following high-intensity exercise there were increases in gait speed, step and stride length, and hip and ankle joint excursion.
  • Improvements in fast gait and weight distribution during sit-to-stand tasks were also recorded.
  • Improvements were not consistently observed in the low- and zero-intensity groups.
  • The high-intensity group showed lengthening in the cortical silent period — a transient suppression of voluntary muscle activity — after depolarization of nerves following transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The bottom line?
The findings suggest dose-dependent benefits of exercise, and that high-intensity exercise can normalize corticomotor [the brain nervous system connection] excitability in early Parkinson’s disease.

Physical therapist, Heather Cianci from Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is the author of Parkinson Disease: Fitness Counts. It’s published by The National Parkinson Foundation. I list it here, not because it’s comparable to the exercises used in this study, but as a resource for increasing a patient’s fitness, and improving their ability to do everyday activities.

It’s a start.

8/31/08 21:30 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.