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High Intensity Exercise May Slow Progression of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the way people move. A recent study suggests that high-intensity exercise three times per week is not only safe for people with early-stage Parkinson’s disease but may actually decrease the worsening of motor skills.


Participants in the study included 128 people between the ages of 40 and 80 who took part in the Study in Parkinson Disease of Exercise. All of the participants were in the early stages of the disease and not taking any medication at the onset of the study. Over the course of six months, the participants underwent one of three interventions: high intensity exercise at 80 to 85% of maximum heart rate, moderate intensity exercise at 60 to 65% of maximum heart rate, and a control group that did not exercise.


At the end of the six-month period, the researchers rated the participants’ on the Parkinson’s disease scale, which goes from 0 to 108, with higher numbers representing a worsening of the disease. At the beginning of the study, the participants had an average score of approximately 20. At the conclusion of the study, the high intensity group still had a score of 20, while the moderate intensity group saw an increase of 1.5 points. The control group had an increase of three points or a 15% change, a clinically important change in quality of life.


Researchers from Northwestern University conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on December 11, 2017, in The JAMA Network.


High-intensity training is a type of exercise that involves rotations of strenuous exercise with less strenuous exercise. Studies suggest that it is an effective way to both lose weight and build muscle. It may also help with bone mineral density in postmenopausal women and improved metabolic health.

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