Parkinson's disease movement disorder

Patients with the movement disorder called Parkinson’s disease often develop resistance to treatment after several years. Unfortunately, the usual consequence is worsening symptoms that make daily life more challenging.

High-Intensity Exercise for Early Parkinson’s Disease:

A new study in JAMA Neurology demonstrates that high-intensity exercise can slow the progression of the condition (Schenkman et al,JAMA Neurology, online Dec. 11, 2017). The study included 128 volunteers in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. They were not yet taking medication.

Before the study began, the scientists rated participants’ symptoms on a scale of 0 to 108. All had a score of around 20 at the outset. Then volunteers were randomly assigned to exercise three times a week at high intensity, moderate intensity or not at all.

The Results of the Intervention:

The non-exercising group of patients with Parkinson’s disease got worse by 3 points on the scale after six months. People assigned to exercise at moderate intensity had a 1.5 point worsening, on average. However, those exercising at high intensity, 80 to 85 percent of maximum heart rate, did not change at all. In sum, this is a clear demonstration that exercise is good medicine.

Learn More:

We are encouraged to read that people with Parkinson’s disease thrive if they exercise vigorously. This is not the first study to show these benefits. Earlier in 2017, we interviewed Dr. Jay Alberts and Kathy Helmuth about their work using intense exercise to slow or even reverse symptoms of Parkinson’s.

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  1. Pam
    Planet Earth

    I have a different type of movement disorder. It’s called cervical dystonia. Essentially, my head involuntarily twists and turns to the left — especially as my treatment wears off near the end of every 3 months. I was first diagnosed 20 years ago. Every 90 days I submit to botox injections around the back of my neck. Botox helps to neutralize the overactive muscles. This is the standard treatment for this condition. I’m very happy to report that I’m no worse for the wear. That’s not to say I haven’t had my trials, especially with respect to pain. It’s just that I can honestly say my overall condition is no worse today than it was 20 years ago. I credit this fact, foremost, to the Creator of us all. He is truly the most Gracious and Merciful. I have also tried to push myself to stay active no matter what. At 62 years old, I bike, roller skate and walk as much as I can. So, I wholeheartedly agree that exercise is absolutely vital to well-being. It’s no different than air and water. In the words of one of my favorite zombie movie characters, “Movement is Life!”

  2. Drew S
    Newport News, VA

    Great article. I just got my first Parkinson diagnosis and have not yet had any prescribed medication. 85 percent reduction in symptoms in those who exercise will get me out of the chair sure enough. I will work with my daughter, a data fanatic, to set baselines and gauge improvements.

    • Mary
      Uk .... NE

      Hi, very interesting !! I also have cervical dystonia. I manage relatively well. Any further tips would be appreciated greatly x

  3. Sherry

    I believe Exercise is good for many conditions… My 86 yr. old client tells me she feels better when she exercises and my MS (diag. 1997) is doing well…I go to the gym 5 days per week to do weight training!

    Keep Moving!!
    Exercise Physiologist

  4. james

    Ran across your internet information.

    At 78 you read a lot of good info in The Peoples Pharmacy. Spend a lot of time reading info about the different cures or research.

    Although I have a had Melanoma cancer and surgery and it was successful. I continue to
    read and try to keep up with the latest research and information in your newsletter.

    Thank you for your good work.

  5. Carol K

    Some who get Parkinson’s are older and often have heart conditions, arthritis, or other problems that could make high-intensity exercise difficult. And some are in wheel chairs. At least mild exercise would help some, wouldn’t it? Just wondering.

  6. Mary

    My husband participates in Rock Steady Boxing, a non-contact Boxing and conditioning program for all levels of Parkinson’s. Great program started 10 years ago in Indianapolis,now with over 500 affiliates world wide.

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