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Walking at a low intensity may help people with Parkinson's disease

April 12, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times

Low-intensity walking may help people with Parkinson's disease improve their gait and mobility, a new study finds.

The study, presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Honolulu, compared three different forms of exercise to see which was most beneficial to men and women with Parkinson's disease, which affects motor control. Researchers randomly assigned 67 people with the disease to one of three programs: a low-intensity treadmill walk for 50 minutes; a high-intensity treadmill walk for 30 minutes; and a weight and stretching regimen that included leg presses, extensions and curls. The workouts were done three times a week for three months. The study participants were tested for cardiovascular fitness.

Participants in both treadmill groups increased their cardiovascular function and those in the strength and stretching group saw improvement in their Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale for motor function. But the low-intensity treadmill group saw the most steady improvements in gait and mobility.

"Walking difficulty is the major cause of disability in Parkinson's disease," said lead author Dr. Lisa Shulman, professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in a news release.

"These results show that exercise in people with Parkinson's disease can make a difference in their function. Exercise may, in fact, delay disability and help to preserve independence."

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