Study Finds Exercise And Movement Help Halt Early Parkinson’s Disease


A new study has been made on Parkinson’s and the findings suggests that people seeing the onset of its early-stages haven’t had regular exercise. The researchers say that getting one to two hours of moderate exercise twice weekly, such as walking or gardening, may find themselves with less problems when it comes to balancing, walking, and doing daily activities later on in life.

Researchers also discovered that those who exercised regularly over five years performed better when they were given  cognitive tests. These people also saw  a slower progression of the disease in more than one aspect. “Our results are exciting, because they suggest it may never be too late for someone with Parkinson’s to start an exercise program to improve the course of their disease,” said Kazuto Tsukita, MD. He is the study author, is from Kyoto University in Japan, and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. He also added, “That’s because we found that to slow progression of the disease, it was more important for people with Parkinson’s to maintain an exercise program than it was to be active at the beginning of the disease.”

The study observed a total of 237 people who had suffered from early-stage Parkinson’s. They had an average age of 63 years old. These participants were monitored and followed by the researchers for as long as six years.

The researchers looked into their exercise levels at the start of the study. They were asked to fill out a questionnaire that measured time and intensity during the previous week of leisure activity. Activities considered were walking, biking, household-related activities such as gardening, and other occupational activities such as caring for others. The researchers also used popular cognitive tests to measure their verbal and memory skills and how much time it took them to finish the mental tasks given.

The findings were interesting, They saw that physical activity level at the beginning of the study was not linked to the progression of the disease in the latter part. Rather, they discovered how it was actually more crucial to maintain physical activity over time. This means that those who had at least at least four hours per week of moderate to vigorous exercise such as walking or dancing showed a slower decline in balancing and walking when they were monitored after five years. They compared these participants to those who didn’t engage in too much exercise.

In order to the researchers to make the proper measurements, they made use of a common test to rate each one’s Parkinson’s symptoms on a scale of zero to four. The higher scores indicated a more severe impairment. Those who had scored below average levels of moderate to vigorous exercise, or less than one to two hours, once or twice a week, had witness of an increase of scores from an average of 1.4 to 3.7 over six years. This is placed side by side to those who got above average levels of moderate to vigorous exercise, who on average increased from a score of 1.4 to 3.0 at that time.

Another cognitive test used was a common paper-and-pencil method that was used to measure mental processing speed. This involved giving them 90 seconds to match numbers with geometric figures. The best maximum possible score for this was 110. They found that the volunteers who did less than 15.5 hours of work per week, on average, had lower scores. Some scores even dropped from a 44 to a 40 on the test after six years. This was again compared to an average drop from a score of 44 to 43 for those who engaged in more than 15.5 hours of exercise and work over that same amount of time.

“Although medications can provide people with Parkinson’s some symptom relief, they haven’t been shown to slow the progression of the disease,” Tsukita explained. “We found that regular physical activity, including household tasks and moderate exercise, may actually improve the course of the disease over the long run. Best of all, exercise is low cost and has few side effects,” he also added.

It must be noted that the research conducted in no way proves that maintaining an exercise program will delay the effects of Parkinson’s disease. They were merely able to establish an association.

A limitation of the study has been published in Neurology, 2022. The researchers also noted that the activity levels reported were made by the participants themselves. Hence, this possibly may not always be accurate.