Weight training may improve the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans this coming April.
In the study, 48 people with Parkinson’s disease used progressive resistance exercise (weight training) or fitness counts, which included flexibility, balance and strengthening exercises. The groups exercised for one hour, twice a week for two years.
The severity of motor symptoms, including tremors, was measured using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) after six, 12, 18 and 24 months of exercise. Scores were taken while the participants were not taking medication.
While both forms of exercise reduced motor symptoms at six months of exercise, participants who performed weight training saw a 7.3 point improvement in their UPDRS score after two years, while the participants in the fitness counts group returned to the same scores they had at the start of the study.
Overall, the study is one of a growing number of more formal, scientifically rigorous studies that support the clinical impression and anecdotal evidence that regular strenuous exercise may have long-term benefits for Parkinson’s disease patients. However, it’s important to remain cautious in interpreting these results since the participants were not blinded (they were aware of their assignment) and their performance could be influenced by motivation and mood. Also, other factors that could influence motor performance such as changes in antiparkinsonian medication are not reported in the study, but will likely be discussed when the study is presented and submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
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