Health & Wellness

Exercise Slows Parkinson’s Progression

While conventional wisdom held that people with Parkinson’s disease couldn’t handle high-intensity workouts, it turns out that exercise helps—a lot

 By Wendy Haaf

People who push themselves to remain physically active after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are on the right track: three vigorous workouts a week can delay the condition’s progress. That was the conclusion of study results US researchers published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

In a randomized study, researchers randomly assigned 128 participants aged 40 to 80 with early-stage Parkinson’s to one of three groups: high-intensity exercise (working to 80 to 85% of maximum heart rate), moderate exercise (60 to 65% of maximum heart rate), or no exercise. None of the participants were taking Parkinson’s medications, so the study results evaluated only the effect of exercise.

After six months, non-exercisers’ scores on a 20-point scale measuring symptom severity had worsened three points and moderate exercisers’ scores had decreased 1.5 points, while scores in the high-intensity group were unchanged.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder. Symptoms include tremors, often beginning in the hand, impaired movement, muscle stiffness, and balance problems.