Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity May Decrease the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity May Decrease the Progression of Parkinson

A major symptom of Parkinson's disease is tremors. A tremor is a rhythmic shaking over which you have no control. Tremors of the hands and sometimes the head often occur along with a constant rubbing together of thumb and forefinger.Over time you may stop making some movements that are normally automatic, such as the natural swinging of arms that makes walking smooth.The rigidity of Parkinson's disease may be experienced as stiffness associated with vague aching and discomfort of a limb suggesting musculoskeletal syndromes, particularly bursitis and tendinitis. In the arm, this rigidity may progress to a frozen shoulder.


Parkinson's disease results when nerve cells in a certain part of the brain die or stop working properly. These cells stop producing an important brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine normally transmits signals to another part of the brain that allows controlled muscle movement.Arvid Carlsson's research revealed that dopamine is a transmitter of the brain that helps to control movements and that Parkinson's disease is related to lack of dopamine. As a result of this discovery, there is now an effective treatment (L-DOPA) for Parkinson's disease. Carlsson's work also demonstrated how other medications work, especially drugs used to treat schizophrenia, and has led to the development of a new generation of effective antidepressant medications.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the brain in which patients develop symptoms such as progressive tremor, slowness of movements, and stiffness of muscles. It affects at least one million people in the United States. Although certain drugs, such as levodopa, can reduce its symptoms, there are no proven treatments that can slow the progressive deterioration in function.

The role of antioxidants in slowing the progression of certain neurological disorders has been suggested as oxidation may be a causative factor in several disorders of the nervous system. Supplementation with vitamin C and E might be of benefit in slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease. Further trials, however, need to be conducted to substantiate these claims.

As Parkinson's disease is a chronic disorder, Treatment of Parkinson's Disease requires broad-based management including patient and family education, support group services, general wellness maintenance, exercise, and nutrition. At present, there is no cure for PD, but medications or surgery can provide relief from the symptoms.

How do mental and physical functioning influence each other? Research has pointed to two main pathways through which mental and physical health mutually influence each other over time. The first key pathway is directly through physiological systems, such as neuroendocrine and immune functioning. The second primary pathway is through health behaviour. The term health behaviour covers a range of activities, such as eating sensibly, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, avoiding smoking, engaging in safe sexual practices, wearing safety belts in vehicles, and adhering to medical therapies.

Regular exercise is extremely important if you have Parkinson's disease. It helps improve mobility, balance, range of motion and even emotional well-being. Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a formal exercise program, but any physical activity, including walking, swimming or gardening, is beneficial. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging and dancing, may be helpful.

Regular physical exercise and/or therapy, including in forms such as yoga, tai chi, and dance can be beneficial to the patient for maintaining and improving mobility, flexibility, balance and a range of motion.Keep in mind that your energy level may go up and down, and you'll sometimes need to pace yourself. If you're tired, try doing one part of your routine at one time of day and adding another segment later. Choose a time to exercise when your medicines are working well and you feel strong.

New research suggests more evidence of yet another benefit of regular exercise: It could keep Parkinson's disease at bay.

The study doesn't conclusively link exercise to better brain health, but scientists think the connection could be more than a fluke.

"The people who seemed to have a lower risk of disease were engaging in moderate to vigorous activity for two to three hours a week," said study leader Evan Thacker, a research assistant at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder that worsens over time and causes a variety of symptoms, including disruptions in movement, as neurons in the brain deteriorate. The cause of the disease is not known, and there is no cure, but drug therapy and surgery can help manage symptoms, according to the Parkinson' Disease Foundation.

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have the disease, and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the foundation. Among famous people who have the condition are the actor Michael J. Fox and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

In what Thacker called the largest research project of its kind, researchers looked at the results of a federal cancer study that followed 63,348 men and 79,977 women from 1992 to 2001. Of the participants -- with an average age of 63 -- 413 of them developed Parkinson's disease.

The researchers looked at exercise levels and tried to determine if they affected the rate of Parkinson's disease after adjusting the numbers to reflect the possible influence of factors such as age, gender and smoking.

People who exercised more than 75 percent of their fellow study participants were 20 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's, compared to those who didn't exercise. The risk of the disease was 40 percent lower in those who took part in the highest levels of moderate to vigorous activity, defined as exercise such as jogging, lap swimming, tennis and bicycling, the study found.

However, there's one caveat -- the researchers found no indication that physical activity at age 40 affected the risk of developing Parkinson's.

The results were expected to be reported Monday at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, in Boston. As is often the case with research presented at conferences, the study has not been published in a medical journal or gone through the review process that journals require.

A previous study suggested a link between exercise and Parkinson's in men, but not in women, Thacker said. The new findings show both genders may benefit.

Still, he cautioned that his study isn't "the final word."

"We can't prove there was some other factor that caused people to be different," he said. "We can just do the best we can.

Thacker said it's still not clear why exercise might influence the development of Parkinson's. One possibility could be that exercise might affect chemicals in the blood that play a role in the development of the disease, he said.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have found evidence suggesting that exercise changes the way neurons release dopamine -- a crucial brain booster -- in mice, said Michael Jakowec, an assistant professor of neurology at the school.

Disruptions in dopamine production have been linked to Parkinson's.

According to Jakowec, both animal studies and brain imaging in humans will help scientists understand the effects of exercise on the brain.

Support and education of patients are critical when giving a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Patients should understand that Parkinson's disease often has a course over decades, the rate of progression varies greatly from one person to another, and many approaches are available to reduce symptoms. Support groups that include patients with more advanced disease may be alarming rather than helpful to persons with newly diagnosed disease. Patients should be counseled about exercise, including stretching, strengthening, cardiovascular fitness, and balance training, although only small, short-term studies suggest that these may improve activities of daily living, gait speed, and balance.

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