Regular exercise has been confirmed as an important part of Parkinson’s disease therapy, one that can enhance patients’ quality of life and slow disease progression, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.
“Regular exercisers at baseline were associated with better metrics of quality of life, mobility, and physical function and less progression of disease disability, caregiver burden, and cognitive decline one year later — even after taking into account disease duration, age and other demographic factors,” said Tanya Simuni, M.D., director of the Parkinson’s Disease Movement Disorders Center.
Despite growing evidence that exercise can reduce the disease’s progression, there has been uncertainty about whether Parkinson’s patients are capable of exercise given their physical limitations.
The researchers examined data from the large National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) Quality Improvement Initiative (QII) Registry of patients with the disease to investigate whether that notion is true.
They found that 44 percent of Parkinson’s participants reported exercising regularly, more than 150 minutes a week.
“This shows that people with physical disabilities can effectively exercise,” said Simuni.
In the U.S., approximately one million people suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, which results in the gradual loss of cells responsible for the production of dopamine, a neurochemical transmitter essential for movement coordination.
Symptoms of the disease include slowness of movements, tremors, stiffness, and change of gait, as well as non-motor problems such as mood dysfunction and sleep impairment, among others.
“There are a lot of effective options to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but there are no curative options or drugs that could slow disease progression,” said Simuni.
The study found that the amount of physical activity is extremely important. Regular exercisers had fewer severe disease symptoms and better cognitive function than low and non-exercisers.
The NPF QII Registry is an observational longitudinal study, conducted at NPF centers of excellence in North America. Simuni serves on the organization steering committee.
“With over 7,500 patients in four countries, the project has given us unprecedented power to examine factors that influence symptoms and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s at every stage of the disease,” said Peter Schmidt, Ph.D., chief information officer and vice president of research programs at the NPF.
“Dr. Simuni has been a leader in teasing out new insight from the collected data.”
The findings were published in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders.
“This study provides a number of important observations that are highly relevant to the physicians taking care of Parkinson’s disease patients and to people living with it,” said Simuni.
Source: Northwestern Medicine