A new study led by University of Iowa researchers suggests that brisk walking may improve the physical and mental symptoms of patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease.
The study found that regular walking improved motor function, mood, tiredness, fitness, and some aspects of thinking abilities in patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease. The findings were published in the July 2 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology
“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 Uc, MD, associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and a neurologist with University of Iowa Health Care and the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
In the study, 60 people with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease took part in sessions of walking at moderate intensity while wearing heart rate monitors three times a week for 45 minutes per session for six months. The participants 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 7 percent. On the test of motor function, participants improved by an average of 2.8 points, which is considered a clinically important difference. These improvements were in comparison to baseline measurements of the participants at the beginning of the study.
“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,” says Uc, who also is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
He adds that these results need to be confirmed in a randomized study with a control group.
The study 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.