Everyday Activity More Beneficial Than Occasional Vigorous Exercise in Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Parkinson's disease study

Results from a recent study published in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders showed that individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may want to consider preform everyday activities such as dish washing, laundry folding and strolls around the neighborhood, in an effort to better to control their disease symptoms.

There is growing evidence of an association between physical inactivity and negative outcomes in patients with PD, including impaired activities of daily living and gait instability. Axial motor dysfunctions in PD, which are generally the least responsive to dopaminergic therapy, lead patients into a sedentary lifestyle increasing the risks derived from physical inactivity. In the study entitled “Non-exercise physical activity attenuates motor symptoms in Parkinson disease independent from nigrostriatal degeneration”, a team of researchers from the New University of Michigan led by Nicholaas Bohnen, investigated whether participation in exercise, like swimming or aerobics, could help alleviate motor symptoms that made these patients want to stay sedentary in the first place.

The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between duration of time spent in vigorous exercise and non-exercise physical activity and severity of motor functions in 48 patients with PD over a 4-week period while accounting for the degree of nigrostriatal degeneration using VMAT2 brain PET imaging. The results showed there was an inverse relationship between motor function unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale (UPDRS) severity scores and duration of non-exercise physical activity but not duration of exercise physical activity. Results from the Multiple regression analysis using UPDRS motor function score as an outcome variable demonstrated a significant regressor effect for duration of non-exercise physical activity while accounting for effects of nigrostriatal degeneration, levodopa-equivalent dose, age and duration of disease.

“What we found was it’s not so much the exercise, but the routine activities from daily living that were protecting motor skills,” Bohnen said in a recent news release. “Sitting is bad for anybody, but it’s even worse for Parkinson’s patients.”

“This may have a big impact for Parkinson’s patients,” said co-author Jonathan Snider, M.D., clinical lecturer of neurology at the University of Michigan. “Not only worsening Parkinsonism but also increasingly sedentary behavior may explain more severe motor symptoms in advanced Parkinson’s disease.”

The researchers concluded that non-exercise physical activity might influence motor symptom severity in PD, independent of nigrostriatal degeneration. It should also be noted that a lifestyle intervention program can increase the amount of weekly outdoor physical activity in PD. The researchers further mentioned that the understanding of how to increase physical activity in PD remains incomplete. Active “Stand-up, sit-less, move-more” intervention strategies deserve further studies to reduce the sedentary lifestyle and improve patient functionality in PD. “I tell my patients to stand up, sit less, and move more,” said Bohnen, also professor of radiology and neurology at the University of Michigan, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System staff physician and investigator in U-M’s Udall Center for Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research.