Australia Universities Collaborate on Parkinson’s Exercise Study

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by Mary Chapman |

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Scientists at two Australia universities are developing a program that will study the effects of exercise on movement and balance in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers at James Cook University (JCU) and La Trobe University are seeking ambulatory patients who are able to perform twice-weekly exercises that may include aerobics plus strengthening or flexibility training. The 12-week program is expected to start next month at JCU. Participants also may exercise at home.

“People with Parkinson’s disease may have symptoms such as tremors, slowness of movement, and rigidity,” Moira Smith, a JCU physiotherapy lecturer, said in a press release. “It affects one in every 308 people in Australia. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease occur due to a reduction in dopamine, which is a chemical in the brain. We don’t know why this happens but think it may be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.”

Parkinson’s affects the brain, resulting in gradual loss of coordination and movement. Exercise is important because it slows disease progression and helps patients maintain or improve balance, mobility, posture, gait, and the ability to perform daily routines. It also can reduce depression, stress, and anxiety.

Research has found that Parkinson’s patients who exercise for at least 2.5 hours weekly also experience a slower decline in their quality of life. Parkinson’s-related exercise should include activities that increase flexibility, such as stretching, aerobics, and either resistance or strength training, scientists say.

“We have carried out similar studies where exercise has improved mobility and reduced falls in people with Parkinson’s disease,” said lead project researcher Meg Morris, a La Trobe University professor. “Much of this research in Australia has taken place in temperate climates such as Melbourne. So, we would like to explore the benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson’s disease in the tropical climate of Townsville.”

Those who are interested in joining the study, or who have questions about it, may write Smith at [email protected], or Morris at [email protected].

Parkinson’s is the second-most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated seven to 10 million individuals globally have Parkinson’s.