Exercise May Aid Parkinson’s Disease, but Make It Intense

Intense treadmill exercise can be safe for people who have recently been given diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease and may substantially slow the progression of their condition, according to an important new study of adults in the early stages of the disease.

As most of us know, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that involves problems with motor control. Symptoms of weakness, stiffness, loss of balance and falls can make exercise difficult and potentially hazardous. Though Parkinson’s is currently incurable, its symptoms can be eased for a time with various drugs.

So some researchers have begun searching for other treatment options, particularly for use in the beginning stages of the disease. If people with early Parkinson’s could break the disease’s advance and delay their need to start medications, the researchers have reasoned, they might change the arc of their disease, delaying its most severe effects.

That possibility recently led a consortium of researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and other institutions to look at exercise as a treatment.

For the new study, which was published in JAMA Neurology, the researchers decided to treat exercise as if it were a drug and carefully track the safety and effectiveness of different “doses” of exercise in a formal Phase 2 clinical trial.

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