Parkinson’s disease patients benefit from aerobic exercise

By: Emily Lunardo | Exercise | Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 10:30 AM

Parkinson’s disease patients benefit from aerobic exerciseA recent study has found that ongoing aerobic activity may help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease which is a disorder that affects the nervous system.

J. Eric Ahlskog, Ph.D., M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, said, “Aerobic exercise means vigorous exercise, which makes you hot, sweaty and tired.” Examples of aerobic exercise include briskly walking or using an elliptical machine.

Researchers found that exercise helps counter brain shrinkage, slow down brain aging, maintain healthy brain connections and liberates trophic factors – small proteins which act in similar fashion as fertilizer on a lawn.

Dr. Ahlskog suggests that physical therapy should incorporate more aerobic-style exercises when dealing with patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Ahlskog made the following recommendations in regards to incorporating more aerobic exercises into your life – whether you have Parkinson’s disease or not it can still help benefit your overall health.

  • Start off slow – begin with 15 minutes and keep adding on time as you become stronger and more fit
  • Set goals – aim for 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous activity at least four times a week
  • Do an activity you enjoy – you’ll be more inclined to stick with it if you enjoy it
  • Push yourself – increase repetitions or try and pass other walkers

Dr. Ahlskog does stress one important point: “Be certain that you have worked with your doctor to optimize your medication, specifically carbidopa/levodopa. Once patients with Parkinson’s disease slow down, adequate carbidopa/levodopa is necessary to optimize quality of life and facilitate engagement in exercise.”

The findings were published in JAMA Neurology.


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