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Low-Intensity Exercise, Drug Combo Can Help Parkinson's Patients, Studies Show
Date:4/13/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- The difficulties with walking, movement and coordination that Parkinson's patients struggle with might be partially offset by a new drug combination and a different approach to exercise, researchers suggest.

Parkinson's patients may achieve the greatest improvements in gait and mobility from lengthy, low-intensity training such as brisk walking, scientists said. This runs counter to prior advice that vigorous exercise helps Parkinson's patients the most.

Additionally, a drug known as safinamide shows promise in reducing involuntary movements in some mid- or late-disease patients when paired with an established medication called levodopa. Safinamide has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About 500,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The findings are to be presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Honolulu.

In the exercise research, scientists from the University of Maryland randomly assigned 67 Parkinson's patients who had trouble walking to three types of exercise: high-intensity treadmill (with greater speed and shorter duration); low-intensity treadmill (lower speed, longer duration); or stretching and resistance training, which included leg presses, extensions and curls.

Participants who did the low-intensity treadmill training performed better than the other two groups on distance and speed tests, and experienced the most consistent improvements in gait and mobility, study author Dr. Lisa Shulman said. But only stretching and resistance training improved scores on a standardized Parkinson's rating scale, probably because that type of exercise improved flexibility, researchers said.

Researchers said that an exercise routine that includes low-intensity walking, as well as stret
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