Could Intense Exercise Delay Parkinson's Progression?
High-intensity exercise is safe for people with early-stage Parkinson’s disease and may help prevent motor symptoms of Parkinson’s from worsening, finds a new phase 2 clinical trial conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
According to the American Parkinson Disease Association, the disease causes five primary motor symptoms: tremor, rigidity, slow movements (bradykinesia), balance problems, and walking/gait problems. Parkinson’s disease is the most common movement disorder and the second most common neurodegenerative condition, affecting more than a million people in the United States.
This clinical trial included 128 participants aged 40 to 80 enrolled in the Study in Parkinson Disease of Exercise (SPARX). Study participants had early-stage Parkinson’s and were not taking Parkinson’s medication. The researchers examined the safety and effects of high-intensity exercise (80-85 percent of maximum heart rate) and moderate-intensity exercise (60-65 percent of maximum heart rate) three times a week for six months and compared the results to a group who did not exercise.
After six months, researchers rated symptoms on a Parkinson’s disease scale ranging from 0 to 108, with higher numbers indicating more severe symptoms. They discovered that symptoms in the high-intensity exercise group remained about the same, symptoms in the moderate-intensity exercise group worsened by about 1.5 points, and symptoms in the group that didn’t exercise worsened by 3 points.