Weight training for two years significantly improves the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease compared to other forms of exercise, such as stretching and balance exercises, according to new research.

“While we have known that many different types of exercise can benefit Parkinson’s patients over short time periods, we did not know whether exercise improves the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s over the long term,” said study author Daniel Corcos, Ph.D., with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For the study, 48 people with Parkinson’s disease were put in one of two groups. The first was assigned to progressive resistance exercise, known as weight training. The other was assigned to the exercise known as fitness counts, which includes flexibility, balance and strengthening exercises.

The groups exercised for one hour, twice a week, for two years.

The severity of symptoms, including tremors, was measured using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) after six, 12, 18 and 24 months of exercise, Corcos said. Scores were taken when the participants were not taking their medication.

While both forms of exercise reduced symptoms at six months, participants who did weight training saw a 7.3 point improvement in their UPRDS score after two years while the fitness counts group returned to the same scores they had at the start of the study.

“Our results suggest that long-term weight training could be considered by patients and doctors as an important component in managing Parkinson’s disease,” said Corcos.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Source: The American Academy of Neurology