- Intense and rigorous exercise may help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.
- Parkinson’s disease is a condition that is rediagnosed in nearly 90,000 people in the United States each year.
- Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world.
An international group of researchers recently discovered that a rigorous exercise program may be able to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, giving way to non-pharmaceutical approaches to help manage symptoms and treat the condition.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that is rediagnosed in nearly 90,000 people in the United States each year, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Currently there is no cure.
Clinical scientists around the world are not only trying to find a cure, but are also trying to help manage symptoms and understand how this treatment works.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world after Alzheimer’s disease and is caused by several years of damage.
However, the early stages of this condition are difficult to understand, as many of the symptoms appear years after the damage has begun.
This study in rats investigated whether rigorous physical activity could affect brain changes in an experimental model of Parkinson’s.
Aerobic exercise has helped people with Parkinson’s
A group of neuroscientists from the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University, Rome Campus with the A. Gemelli IRCCS Polyclinic Foundation published data July 14 in the journal Scientific progress showing that intensive exercise reduces both the motor and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
This research also helps them better understand why this is the case.
“As a neurologist, caring for patients with Parkinson’s disease in the early stages, I noticed that some of them had a better course of the disease when they routinely did aerobic exercise,” said Paolo Calabresi, author of the corresponding study and professor of neurology. in the Department of Neuroscience at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy.
Other studies have highlighted this trend.
Why exercise can help reduce Parkinson’s disease symptoms
Calabresi told Healthline that “a neurobiological explanation of the improvement brought about by physical activity” was lacking, and his study worked to understand how this benefit occurred to help develop future treatments.
While some studies had shown that exercise improved both motor and cognitive performance, none had shown the precise mechanism of the beneficial effects and this study used rat models to understand how this benefit works.
By introducing rats to agents that trigger the early effects of Parkinson’s disease, scientists began rigorous treadmill testing to understand the reversible nature and preservation of motor control and movement with these exercises.
“Alpha-synuclein is a protein normally present in the brain, but in Parkinson’s disease it accumulates to high levels and forms clumps called ‘aggregates,'” said Dr. David Standaert, professor and president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Department of Neurology in Birmingham, Alabama.
These aggregates are believed to damage neurons, or nerve cells, that help send signals throughout the body.
Through exercise, there is a reduction in these aggregates “suggesting that exercise will have a lasting benefit and may slow the overall progression of Parkinson’s disease,” Standaert, who was not involved in the study, told Healthline.
In the study, researchers found that through exercise, there was preservation and less spread of Parkinson’s disease-causing aggregates, reducing symptoms and reducing the spread of the disease.
Although this experiment involved intensive training for about four weeks, Calabresi believes that constant training is not always necessary.
“We found that the positive effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity persist for at least a week after the cessation of motor activity,” he said.
Calabresi explained that short breaks from exercise don’t seem to affect or alter the benefits of exercise, but longer periods of inactivity may highlight the importance of exercise in Parkinson’s disease.
Current therapies for Parkinson’s focus on treating symptoms
As of today, most of the therapies available for Parkinson’s disease are based on symptomatic care, and there are currently no medications that have proven effective in changing the course of the condition.
While there are medications aimed at treating the symptoms, non-pharmaceutical approaches can also be used to curb this disease.
“Exercise is clearly beneficial in Parkinson’s disease and leads to better short- and long-term outcomes,” says Standaert.
“Other important measures in managing Parkinson’s disease include getting enough sleep, hydration, and a balanced diet that includes fiber,” he told Healthline.
While exercise is part of Parkinson’s disease treatment, a multifaceted approach is needed to manage symptoms and reduce the progression of the disease.
Standaert believes that using exercise in both “early and more advanced stages” along with medications is a beneficial multifactorial way to control Parkinson’s disease.
Patients should “work with your doctor and use the lowest dose that is effective in restoring the ability to be active,” he continued.
While it doesn’t take care of all symptoms, rigorous exercise can slow disease progression and is encouraged by all clinicians working closely with this condition.
“I think our study says that people involved in the care of patients with Parkinson’s disease, such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and carers, should encourage patients to start or continue [an] active lifestyle and in particular to focus on aerobic exercise,” Calabresi told Healthline.
A new study finds evidence why intense exercise may help people with Parkinson’s disease reduce their symptoms. Researchers used rats to find that exercise preserved and reduced the spread of Parkinson’s disease-causing aggregates. As a result, they found that exercise helped reduce symptoms and reduced the spread of the disease.
Dr. Rajiv Bahl, MBA, MS, is an emergency physician, board member of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, and health writer. You can find him at RajivBahlMD.
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