Regular physical activity may help delay declines in patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed more than 3,400 patients with Parkinson’s disease and found that those who worked out 150 minutes a week exhibited smaller declines in quality of life and mobility during a two-year follow-up than those who exercised less or those who did not exercise at all. “The smaller decline was significant for people who started the study as regular exercisers, as well as for people who started to exercise 150 minutes per week after their first study-related visit,” said lead researcher Miriam R. Rafferty.
However, the study did not identify which type of exercise works best to achieve the same effect.
Patients with more advanced Parkinson’s disease may have limited access to regular physical activities as their declining mobility may restrict them from participating in existing community and group exercise programs, researchers said. The results highlight the need to make exercise and other forms of physical activity more accessible to patients with more severe disability, the researchers added.
“The most important part of the study is that it suggests that people who are not currently achieving recommended levels of exercise could start to exercise today to lessen the declines in quality of life and mobility that can occur with this progressive disease,” Rafferty added.
The findings were published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.
More studies link exercise to improved functions in PD patients
A 2009 study published in the journal Brain and Cognition revealed that exercise was proven to be beneficial in improving executive functioning in older patients with Parkinson’s disease. An analysis of 20 elderly patients showed that participants who underwent a generalized physical training for six months exhibited marked improvements in executive functioning.
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A meta-analysis published in 2014 also found a positive correlation between physical activity and executive function in patients with Parkinson’s disease. A review of animal studies demonstrated that various types of exercise — such as aerobic, resistance and dance — were associated with improved cognitive function. (RELATED: Follow more news about brain health at Brain.news.)
The results add to the growing evidence about the benefits of exercise in the cognitive function of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Health care practitioners and policy makers should recommend physical activity as a key component of routine management and neurorehabilitation for the disease, researchers said. The findings were published in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration.
An animal study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that exercise appeared to help keep dopamine alive in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is a compound that is crucial in stimulating motor system nerves in the body. Insufficient dopamine levels result to the development of the debilitating disease.
Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine in the University of Southern California found that animal models that underwent a treadmill exercise exhibited significant changes in their dopamine levels compared with control models. The findings demonstrate that physical activity “may help the injured brain to work more efficiently by allowing the remaining dopamine producing neurons to work harder and in doing so may promote stronger connections in the brain,” said lead researcher Michael Jakowec.
A meta-analysis published in the journal Neurology found that vigorous physical activities may mitigate the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Data on more than 125,000 participants showed that men who engaged in strenuous exercise during early adulthood had a 60% lower likelihood of suffering Parkinson’s disease compared with men who did not exercise. The results demonstrate that high levels of physical activity may help keep the debilitating disease at bay, researchers said.