High Intensity Exercise Shown to Slow Parkinson’s Progression in Phase II trial

A new phase II, multi-site trial led by Northwestern Medicine and University of Colorado School of Medicine scientists has shown that High-intensity exercise three times a week is safe for individuals with early-stage Parkinson’s disease and decreases worsening of motor symptoms.

This is the first time scientists have tested the effects of high-intensity exercise on patients with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder.

It previously had been thought high-intensity exercise was too physically stressful for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

The results of the latest Phase II trial published in JAMA Neurology, demonstrate that regular exercise on a treadmill at a high intensity may slow progression of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s symptoms include progressive loss of muscle control, trembling, stiffness, slowness and impaired balance. As the disease progresses, it may become difficult to walk, talk and complete simple tasks.

Researchers enrolled 128 people with Parkinson’s who were diagnosed in the last five years, not yet taking medication for PD and not regularly exercising. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: control (no change in their activity level), moderate-intensity treadmill exercise (four times a week at 60 to 65 percent maximum heart rate) or high-intensity treadmill exercise (four times a week at 80 to 85 percent maximum heart rate). After six months, researchers found that the motor symptoms of the high-intensity exercisers had not progressed, while those of the control group and moderate-intensity exercisers had.

Participants in the study had a score of about 20 before exercise. Those in the high intensity group stayed at 20. The group with moderate exercise got worse by 1.5 points. The group that did not exercise worsened by three points. Three points out of a score of 20 points is a 15 percent change in the primary signs of the disease and considered clinically important to patients. It makes a difference in their quality of life.

“We are stopping people from getting worse, which is significant, particularly if we catch them early in the disease,” Corcos said.

“If you have Parkinson’s disease and you want to delay the progression of your symptoms, you should exercise three times a week with your heart rate between 80 to 85 percent maximum. It is that simple,” said co-lead author Daniel Corcos, professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Find what you enjoy and what suits your lifestyle and level of symptoms so you can keep moving. To get further assistance speak to your GP or physiotherapist to design a program that meets your needs.

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