There is a large body of research to support exercise as a valuable part of any Parkinson’s treatment plan. Studies show regular physical exercise helps people with Parkinson’s regain and retain mobility, flexibility, balance and strength. Some early studies also indicate exercise has a neuroprotective effect, which may help improve cognition, energy levels, and mood. This is why neurologists recommend exercise as part of most treatment plans.
One recent study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Denver has shown that high-intensity exercise, three times per week, is safe for those with early-stage Parkison’s and also slows the progress of motor symptoms. The participants in the study who were in the “high intensity” group stayed at the same level of function, while those in the moderate exercise group saw a worsening of symptoms. Those in the group who did not exercise saw an even bigger loss of function.
Another study looked at people with Parkisons who engaged in at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week. They had a smaller decline in quality of life and mobility over the course of two years. Research also shows it’s important to start exercising early after diagnosis. Compared to those who didn’t exercise at all, or who started exercising later, those who develop the exercise habit early have an advantage when it comes to disease management.
Research from the University of Southern California suggests that in certain situations, exercise may improve neuroplasticity enough to outweigh the neurodegenerative effects of the disease. They found that people who exercised moved more normally than those who did not.
While it’s no secret that exercise can help improve strength, flexibility and coordination, it has been shown to provide help people with Parkinson’s in specific ways, including better gait, balance, and reduced tremor.
Delay the Disease, an evidence-based program of Parkinson’s-specific exercises, is offered through the Wellthon app. We are proud to make the benefits of exercise more accessible to people with Parkinson’s.