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Exercise a Likely Tool for Parkinson's Patients
Date:11/9/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with Parkinson's disease can improve walking, muscle strength and fitness with moderate exercise, a new study finds.

Difficulty walking is a hallmark of this central nervous system disorder, and current treatments don't preserve mobility as the disease progresses. Moderate exercise may help preserve mobility, the researchers said.

"This study shows that treadmill training and resistance exercise are both effective to improve walking in Parkinson's disease," said lead researcher Dr. Lisa Shulman, medical director of the Neurology Ambulatory Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

"Walking problems are among the most disabling symptoms of Parkinson's disease," she said. "The study suggests that the combination of treadmill and resistance training may be a particularly good approach in Parkinson's disease."

The report was published in the Nov. 5 online edition of the journal Archives of Neurology.

To see if exercise would be of benefit, Shulman's team randomly assigned 67 patients with Parkinson's disease who had trouble walking to high-intensity treadmill walking, low-intensity treadmill walking or stretching and resistance exercises. All groups exercised three times a week for three months.

All three groups showed improvement. The most effective exercise, however, was low-intensity treadmill walking, which increased six-minute walking distance by 12 percent. High-intensity treadmill walking improved distance by 6 percent, the researchers found.

Both treadmill groups improved cardiovascular fitness, while stretching and resistance exercises improved muscle strength by 16 percent, they noted.

"Different types of exercise result in different types of improvements in Parkinson's disease," Shulman said.

"People with Parkinson's disease do not need to perform very
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