A senior woman using a rowing machine.

    High-intensity exercise ‘delays Parkinson’s’

    12 December 2017

    High-intensity exercise three times a week decreases worsening of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s, according to a new trial published in JAMA Neurology.

    This is the first time scientists have tested the effects of high-intensity exercise on patients with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder.

    It was previously believed that high-intensity exercise was too physically stressful for people with Parkinson’s.

    The study’s co-lead author, Daniel Corcos, said: ‘If you have Parkinson’s disease and you want to delay the progression of your symptoms, you should exercise three times a week with your heart rate between 80 to 85 percent maximum. It is that simple.’

    The randomised clinical trial involved 128 participants between the ages of 40 and 80.

    Participants enrolled in the study were at an early stage of the disease and not taking Parkinson’s medication, ensuring the results of the study were related to the exercise and not affected by medication.

    The researchers examined the safety and effects of exercise three times weekly for six months at high intensity, 80 to 85 per cent of maximum heart rate, and moderate intensity, 60 to 65 per cent of maximum heart rate. They compared the results to a control group who did not exercise.

    After six months, participants were rated by clinicians on a Parkinson’s disease scale ranging from 0 to 108. The higher the number, the more severe the symptoms.

    Participants in the study had a score of about 20 before exercise. Those in the high intensity group stayed at 20. The group with moderate exercise got worse by 1.5 points. The group that did not exercise worsened by three points. Three points out of a score of 20 points is a 15 percent change in the primary signs of the disease and considered clinically important to patients. It makes a difference in their quality of life.

    ‘The earlier in the disease you intervene, the more likely it is you can prevent the progression of the disease,’ Corcos said. ‘We delayed worsening of symptoms for six months; whether we can prevent progression any longer than six months will require further study.’