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Those with Parkinson's get several benefits from walking: study

July 7, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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An activity as simple as walking can benefit those who have mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published online by Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers found that those who regularly walk briskly for exercise may improve their motor function, mood, tiredness, fitness and some aspects of thinking abilities.

“The results of our study suggest that walking may provide a safe and easily accessible way of improving the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improve quality of life,” says study author Ergun Y. Uc, MD, of the University of Iowa in Iowa City and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Iowa City.

The study included 60 people who took part in sessions of walking at moderate intensity three times a week for 45 minutes per session for six months. The participants wore heart rate monitors and also took tests that measured their motor function, aerobic fitness, mood, tiredness and memory and thinking abilities. The average walking speed was about 2.9 miles per hour, and participants were exercising at 47 percent of their heart rate reserve, which meets the definition of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.

The study found that brisk walking improved motor function and mood by 15 percent, attention/response control scores by 14 percent, reduced tiredness by 11 percent and increased aerobic fitness and gait speed by seven percent.

“People with mild-moderate Parkinson’s who do not have dementia and are able to walk independently without a cane or walker can safely follow the recommended exercise guidelines for healthy adults—which includes 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity—and experience benefits,” Uc says. The study results need to be confirmed in a randomized study with a control group, he adds.

The research was supported primarily by the Department of Veterans Affairs and also by the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Charles W. and Harriet J. Seedorff Family and the National Institutes of Health.

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