BY SARAH OWENS
The evidence demonstrating the benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson's disease keeps mounting, and researchers continue to parse the benefits. How much is enough? Is it ever too late to start? And is it still beneficial for older people or those in various stages of the disease?
Those questions were answered in a study published online on March 23 in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease. Researchers reported that people with Parkinson's, including those with advanced disease, who exercised just two and a half hours a week had smaller declines in mobility and health-related quality of life.
Collecting Study Participants
Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, analyzed data on 3,408 patients with Parkinson's disease who were participating in the National Parkinson Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative (NPF-QII), an international study of the care of people with the disease and their treatment outcomes. All patients had completed three annual visits over a period of two years and had information available on how often they exercised per week.
The researchers sorted the participants into four groups: Those who reported exercising less than two and a half hours per week at all three visits; those who began exercising at least two and a half hours per week at the first visit; those who began exercising at least two and a half hours per week at the second visit; and those who exercised at least two and a half hours per week at all three visits.
Assessing Change in Health
To determine the effects of exercise, researchers analyzed the patients' outcomes on a variety of tests, including the Parkinson's Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39), which ask questions related to daily activities such as whether participants can bathe and prepare food on their own; the status of their emotional wellbeing; their ability to communicate; and whether they have social support.
To measure functional mobility, the participants took the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, which times patients as they stand up from a chair, walk to a line, and then walk back to the chair.
After comparing participants' level of exercise to their performance on the tests, the researchers found that consistent exercisers (those who exercised at least two and a half hours a week at all three visit) as well as those who began to exercise regularly after their first visit had significantly smaller declines on both the PDQ-39 and TUG tests. Those who did not get at least two and a half hours of exercise per week at any visit had notable declines on both tests. Exercise was equally beneficial for those with mild and advanced Parkinson's disease.
Additionally, researchers found that increasing exercise by just 30 minutes per week was associated with slower declines in both functional mobility and health-related quality of life. For patients with Parkinson's disease, adding just a little more exercise into their daily routines may result in a big health payoff.
For more articles on the benefits of exercise for people with neurologic diseases, visit bit.ly/NN-Exercise.