Physical exercise improved gait speed in patients with Parkinson’s disease

Gait speed, muscle strength and fitness improved for patients with Parkinson’s disease with physical exercise, including treadmill, stretching and resistance exercises, according to recent study results.

Between February 2007 and May 2010, 67 patients from the University of Maryland Parkinson’s Disease Center diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and gait impairment were randomly assigned to one of three interventions: a higher-intensity treadmill exercise; a lower-intensity treadmill exercise; or stretching and resistance exercises. Exercises were performed three times a week for 3 months.

Primary outcome measures included gait speed in a 6-minute walk, cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

Study results showed patients who performed physical exercise increased distance on the 6 minute walk, which included lower-intensity treadmill exercise (12%), stretching and resistance exercises (9%) and higher-intensity treadmill exercise (6%). Patients’ cardiovascular fitness was improved by both types of treadmill training, while stretching and resistance had no effect. However, patients who performed stretching and resistance exercises exhibited improved muscle strength.

“The fact that the lower-intensity treadmill exercise is the most feasible exercise for most patients with PD has important implications for clinical practice. Although treadmill and resistance training are beneficial for gait, fitness and muscle strength, these benefits were not accompanied by improvements in disability and quality of life,” the researchers concluded. “Future directions for study include trials of combinations of exercise types, longer training periods and investigation of the potential for exercise to modify the trajectory of disease progression over time.”

Disclosure: The researchers reported serving as editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Neurology’s NeurologyNowPatient Book Series and section editor for Current Treatment Options in Neurology; serving as a consultant for Bradley vs CSX, Gilmore vs Charlotte Hall, Rosenberry vs Patel, Guidpoint Global, HD Drugworks, the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, Neurosearch Sweden, Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals and the CHDI Foundation; serving as site visitor for the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs; serving on advisory boards for Santhera, Rexahn and Shiongi Pharma; receiving speaking fees from the University of Illinois at Chicago; receiving royalties from Demos, Elsevier, Informa, Johns Hopkins University Press and Lippincott; receiving research support from Abbott Laboratories, the Baltimore VA Medical Center, Chiltern, the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs, EMD Serono, the Geriatric Research Educational and Clinical Center, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the Rosalyn Newman Foundation and through VA Rehabilitation Research and Development. This study was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

For more information:

Shulman LM. Arch Neurol. 2012;doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.646.

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