-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to helping
Parkinson's disease patients retain vital motor function, weight
training may be more effective than stretching or balance
exercises, a new study concludes.
The findings "reconfirm our notions that exercise plays an
important part in the treatment of Parkinson's disease," according
to one outside expert, Dr. Nora Chan, director of the Movement
Disorder Program at Winthrop-University Hospital, in Mineola,
The research involved 48 people with Parkinson's who were
randomly assigned to either a weight-training program or a workout
routine that included flexibility, balance and strengthening
routines. Both groups exercised for one hour, twice a week for two
The severity of the patients' motor symptoms, including tremors,
was assessed after six, 12, 18, and 24 months of exercise. The
symptoms were checked when the patients were not taking their
Both groups showed improvements in motor symptoms at six months.
But patients in the weight-training group had a 7.3 point
improvement in their Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale after
two years, while the patients in the other group returned to the
same scores they had at the start of the study.
The findings are being released early but will be presented at
the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in New Orleans
"While we have known that many different types of exercise can benefit Parkinson's patients over short time periods, we did not know whether exercise improves the motor symptoms of Parkinson's over the long term," study author Daniel Corcos, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in an AAN news release.
"Our results suggest that long-term weight training could be considered by patients and doctors as an important component in managing Parkinson's disease," he added.
Another expert, Dr. Andrew Feigin, said the study is one of many
that seems to support the notion "that regular strenuous exercise
may have long-term benefits for Parkinson's disease patients."
However, participants knew which type of exercise they were being
assigned, so that might have influenced their mood or motivation,
according to Feigin, a neurologist specializing in Parkinson's
disease at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in
For her part, Chan added that "further studies are needed to
clarify whether certain exercises are more suitable for patients
with different symptoms, in different stages of disease, how cost
effective these various programs are, and the exact mechanisms by
which exercise improves Parkinson's disease symptoms."
Findings presented at medical meetings are considered
preliminary until publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
The National Parkinson Foundation has more about
Parkinson's disease and exercise.
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