Treating Parkinson's Disease with Exercise
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The University of Maryland Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center is recognized as a leader in studies of exercise in Parkinson's disease.
Our current study investigates the effects of physical training (walking on a treadmill) and cognitive training (playing computer brain games) on both gait and cognition as well as dual task performance (the combination of motor and cognitive tasks).
"This study builds on our experience from a previous study of exercise for gait and mobility in Parkinson's disease. Since both motor function and cognitive function are important for mobility and performance of daily activities, this new study will investigate the individual and combined effects of treadmill training and cognitive training," explains Lisa Shulman, M.D., co-investigator and professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The researchers, who received funding through a VA Merit Award, have enrolled more than 90 people with PD who are divided randomly into three groups:
- Treadmill training
- Memory training
- Both treadmill and cognitive training
Participants in each group receive physical and cognitive assessments at the beginning of the study. They come into the exercise lab three times a week for three months for their training and then the physical and cognitive assessments are repeated. Three months later, the participants are tested again to assess long-term effects of the training.
Based on the available literature and our own exercise study regarding exercise, the evidence suggests that people with Parkinson's disease should perform a combination of the following exercises:
- Cardiovascular fitness (aerobic exercise)
- Muscle strengthening (weights, resistance)
- Stretching (range of motion)
It is clear that each of these components accomplish different outcomes (aerobic exercise leads to better cardiovascular fitness, resistance exercise leads to more muscle strength) and it is reasonable to conclude that a combination of these different types of exercise will accomplish more than each alone.
It's important to remember that the exercise regimen that's best for you will depend upon your individual fitness and strength.