Health & Medicine

Study: High-intensity exercise may slow Parkinson’s disease

High-intensity treadmill exercise has been shown to be beneficial to Parkinson’s disease patients who are trying to stem the progression of their degenerative neurological condition.
High-intensity treadmill exercise has been shown to be beneficial to Parkinson’s disease patients who are trying to stem the progression of their degenerative neurological condition. TNS

Anyone who is serious about exercise knows that the quality of a training session is usually more important than its duration.

A study published in JAMA Neurology suggests that that’s especially true for Parkinson’s disease patients who are trying to stem the progression of their degenerative neurological condition via increased physical activity.

The randomized clinical trial — structured to mimic an FDA-compliant phase 2 randomized medication study — involved 128 Parkinson’s patients who had been diagnosed in the past five years.

None of the participants had medication yet for the disease.

They were divided into three groups:

▪  Those who exercised vigorously (80 percent to 85 percent of maximum heart rate) on a treadmill three days a week for six months.

▪  Those who exercised moderately (60 percent to 65 percent of maximum heart rate) on a treadmill three days a week for six months.

▪  Those who didn’t exercise (the control group).

After six months, the moderate exercisers and the non-exercisers exhibited a decline in the baseline status of their disease.

But, as The New York Times noted, “the group that had worked out intensely showed almost no decline in their disease scores.”

The study’s authors concluded that “high-intensity treadmill exercise might be feasible and prescribed safely for patients with Parkinson’s disease (and that) an efficacy trial is warranted to determine whether high-intensity treadmill exercise produces meaningful clinical benefits.”

The study’s findings supported what many people have theorized for years based on anecdotal observation: Physical activity is beneficial for those with Parkinson’s.

Whether walking, dancing, yoga or pilates, the activities encouraged by Parkinson’s advocacy organizations run the gamut.

One form of training for Parkinson’s sufferers that has become increasingly popular is non-contact boxing. That’s because it provides benefits on multiple levels:

Cognitive: Remembering the sequence of punches — jabs, uppercuts, hooks — while combining with proper shoulder placement, foot movement and hip rotation gives participants a great mental workout.

Physical: Boxing improves all aspects of one’s fitness — strength, flexibility, balance and endurance.

Emotional: Symptoms of Parkinson’s can be frustrating, and this gives sufferers a means to vent that frustration.

Want more evidence of boxing’s efficacy on Parkinson’s?

Boxing trainer and former professional boxer Freddie Roach, 57, has had Parkinson’s symptoms for 30 years. He displayed symptoms toward the end of his fighting days, and he attributes the disease’s onset to blows in the ring.

However, these days, when he’s in the ring training his world-class stable of fighters (including champions Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto), his tremors disappear when he slips on the gloves or mitts.

For Parkinson’s sufferers who don’t find relief from physical activity or medication, advances in medical technology have given them options.

At Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Neurological Institute, director and neurosurgeon Dr. Badih Adada uses the institute’s new ROSA brain robotic surgery system to perform minimally invasive brain surgery on patients with epilepsy, Parkinson’s, essential tremors and other neurological disorders.

Adada has found that this form of deep-brain stimulation, in which the ROSA functions as a “GPS-like guide” to find the precise neurostimulators that need to be blocked in order to prevent tremors, has been “remarkably effective for patients who don’t respond to medication for their symptoms.”

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