Parkinson's disease. Exercise regularly with intensity to diminish symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, second only to Alzheimer’s disease. The condition affects people of all cultures. Globally it affects aprox. 10 million individuals who are generally over 60 years of age, but it can occur in younger people — 1 in 10 are under 50. It is a progressive disease with symptoms that begin gradually.

Symptoms include: • trembling of the face, legs, arms, or hands • rigidity or stiffness in the limbs and trunk • slow movement with balance and coordination issues • cognitive decline in the later stages of the disease

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but experts believe it develops due to genetic and environmental factors. Research has found that symptoms arise because of the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, which is a midbrain dopaminergic nucleus that has the role to modulate motor movement and reward functions as part of the basal ganglia circuitry. Levodopa, a drug that the brain converts into dopamine, helps manage PD symptoms. However, individuals can experience side effects, and the drug does not delay the progression of the disease.

Exercise is a treatment Health experts have long suggested exercise as a way to alter the progression of PD. Studies have shown that high-intensity exercise can improve motor function while dance training improves balance and walking stability. Now, a recent study in Neurology has shown that the effect of exercise extends beyond the duration of the physical activity itself. It also suggests regular exercise can change the progression of PD over the longer term. The study involved 237 patients with early-stage PD and 158 healthy volunteers. Researchers gave them annual questionnaires to record exercise intensity, frequency, and duration. They also administered cognitive tests to assess their memory and verbal skills.

At the start of the study, the researchers found that the patients with PD had worse motor, cognitive and autonomic functions than the healthy group. However, there was no difference in regular physical activity and intensity levels between the groups.

Exercise The study found that overall regular physical activity had a significant effect on the balance and stability of the participants. Patients with early-stage PD who took 4 hours of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week had a slower decline in balancing and walking compared to those who took less exercise. One very important message from the research is that the domains that are most improved by exercise are those that cannot be improved by drugs (i.e., postural and gait stability, processing speed, etc.).

Symptoms and activity One of the strengths of the study is that it investigated not just the effects of exercise, but of physical activity, defined as daily life activities performed in the course of work, leisure, or household related pursuits, that require exertion.
Increased physical activity was correlated with slower deterioration of a number of PD symptoms, implying that energy expenditure of all kinds, and not just formal exercise, is crucial in managing PD symptoms. Specifically, the study showed that moderate-to-vigorous exercise increased the balance and stability of individuals over time when compared to household, work, and overall leisure activities. In the same way, work-related activity levels showed a stronger reduction in the decline of processing speed. The study showed the progression of the disease was better altered in those who had maintained their physical activity over time, showing an association between maintaining a regular exercise regime and delaying the effects of the disease.

Exercise is more than just a tool to help you get fit or healthy… Movement it is a part of life itself as breathing and even more than that.