Research finds four hours of exercise a week may ease early Parkinson’s

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Individuals with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease who engage in one to two hours of moderate exercise twice a week may have less issues with movement and activities later, according to a new study.

The study, published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that those who exercised regularly over five years did better on cognitive tests and had slower progression of the disease in several aspects.

Researchers evaluated 237 people with early-stage Parkinson’s. The average age of participants was 63 years old, and they were followed by researchers for up to six years.

According to the study, participants’ exercise levels at the start of the research were determined by a questionnaire that measures time and intensity during the previous week of leisure, household, and occupational activities. Common cognitive tests were used to assess people’s verbal and memory skills and how much time it took to complete mental tasks.

Researchers found that people’s physical activity level at the start of the study was not associated with the progression of their Parkinson’s later. Instead, they found it was more important to maintain physical activity over time.

People who got at least four hours per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise like walking or dancing had slower decline in balancing and walking five years later, compared to those who did not get that much exercise, according to the study.

“Our results are exciting, because they suggest it may never be too late for someone with Parkinson’s to start an exercise program to improve the course of their disease,” said study author Kazuto Tsukita, MD, of Kyoto University in Japan and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “That’s because we found that to slow progression of the disease, it was more important for people with Parkinson’s to maintain an exercise program than it was to be active at the beginning of the disease.”

While integrative practitioners can keep this in mind when creating treatment plans for their patients with early Parkinson’s, they should note that the study does not prove that maintaining an exercise program will delay the effects of Parkinson’s disease.