Toronto: Being physically active can benefit people living with Parkinson’s disease, improving their gait and balance and reducing risks of falls, according to a new study.
“Exercise should be a life-long commitment to avoid physical and cognitive decline, and our research shows that this is also true for individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD),” said Christian Duval, professor at Universite du Quebec a Montreal in Canada.
Despite the progressive nature of the disease, people living with PD can expect to improve their physical condition by being more physically active.
Investigators conducted an in-depth analysis of 106 studies conducted over the past 30 years, which resulted in a significant number of outcome measures.
This provides a clear picture of the current scientific knowledge regarding to the effects of physical activity on the health of people living with PD.
They group these outcomes into four main categories, (1) physical capacities (strength, flexibility), (2) physical and cognitive functional capacities (gait, mobility, cognitive functions), (3) clinical symptoms of PD (rigidity, tremor, posture alterations), and (4) psychosocial aspects of life (quality of life and health management).
They further subdivided these categories into subcategories to look for specific benefits at a more granular level.
PA was most effective for benefiting physical capacity and physical and cognitive functional capacity.
Physical capacity includes subcategories such as limb strength, endurance, flexibility or range of motion, motor control and metabolic function. More than 55 per cent of all studies found positive effects in these two main categories.
Some subcategories, such as upper limb strength, saw improvement in almost 67 per cent of all studies.
The results in subcategories of cognitive function were low, but the researchers note that there were only nine studies that measured cognitive improvement from PA for PD patients.
The connection between PA and clinical symptoms of PD, and psychosocial aspects of life, are less clear, with only 50 per cent and 45.3 per cent of results reporting positive effects, respectively.
In the clinical symptoms of PD category, both the highest (motor evaluation, gait and posture alterations) and lowest (bradykinesia, freezing and tremor) effectiveness rates were found across the subcategories.
“In addition, to confirm the positive role of physical activity for patients with PD, this study has identified areas in which more research is needed. As such it will serve as a guide for future investigations,” said Jean-Francois Daneault, from Harvard University in the US.
The study was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.