People with Parkinson's disease (PD) benefit from many types of exercise -- boxing, cycling, yoga and others. Regular physical activity can ease motor and non-motor symptoms, boost mood and improve quality of life. It's good for general health and well-being and, in some cases, just as important as the medications your doctor prescribes to manage PD. So it's no wonder that people often ask "what's the best exercise for Parkinson's?"
A new Phase II study adds to the growing body of evidence on the effects of exercise for people with Parkinson's. The results, published in JAMA Neurology, demonstrate that regular exercise on a treadmill at a high intensity may slow progression of PD.
Researchers enrolled 128 people with Parkinson's who were diagnosed in the last five years, not yet taking medication for PD and not regularly exercising. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: control (no change in their activity level), moderate-intensity treadmill exercise (four times a week at 60 to 65 percent maximum heart rate) or high-intensity treadmill exercise (four times a week at 80 to 85 percent maximum heart rate). After six months, researchers found that the motor symptoms of the high-intensity exercisers had not progressed, while those of the control group and moderate-intensity exercisers had.
These results demonstrate the feasibility, safety and potential benefit of high-intensity treadmill exercise in people with Parkinson's, particularly those who are recently diagnosed. A Phase III efficacy trial would help fully determine the benefits of this activity in PD.
Research on varied types of exercise for both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD is ongoing. (Register for Fox Trial Finder to match with recruiting trials.) While the jury is still out on the best exercise for Parkinson's, the best exercise for you is the one you'll do regularly. Find what you enjoy and what suits your lifestyle and level of symptoms so you can keep moving.
Just getting started? Speak with your physician to design a program that meets your needs. And, visit our website to learn more.
View an "Ask the MD" video on exercise and PD.