How Regular Exercise Can Lower the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Research suggests that engaging in regular physical activities such as walking, cycling, cleaning, gardening and playing sports could significantly lower Parkinson’s risk. According to one study conducted on this matter, those engaging most had a 25% reduced risk compared to those engaging least.

Exercise can be a cost-effective means of improving overall health, so researchers set out to see whether exercise could be linked with lower risks of Parkinson’s – an incurable debilitating disease with no cure – as part of an attempt to develop treatments to combat Parkinson’s. Their findings provide support for treatments intended to halt this debilitating condition and can serve as evidence against it.

This study involved 95,354 female participants aged 49 years on average who did not have Parkinson’s at the start. Over 30 years, an average of 1,074 of them developed Parkinson’s.

Individuals participated in this research project by filling out multiple questionnaires about the types and amounts of physical activity they engaged in every day, including climbing flights of stairs and walking distance; domestic tasks performed; moderate recreational activities (gardening); as well as more vigorous sports.

Each activity was scored using metabolic equivalent of a task (METs), an approach to quantifying energy expenditure. Multiplied by duration and frequency for each activity, these METs scores gave each one its weekly physical activity score.

At the outset of this study, cycling was measured as six METs while cleaning and walking were both three. Individuals averaged 45 MET-hours each week as physical activity levels.

Individuals were divided into 4 equal groups of approximately 24,000 each and placed into four activity levels categories at the beginning of the study; at its height, one group averaged an activity score of 71 METs-hours each week while another scored 27.

Studies conducted across varying exercise levels found 246 Parkinson’s cases per 1000 person-years among participants of high exercise levels versus 286 among those engaging in lower exercise levels; person-years indicate both participation length as well as total study participants.

Adjusting for factors including location, menopausal status and age of first period as well as smoking status, it was observed that those in the group with higher exercise levels experienced a 25% reduced rate of Parkinson’s compared with those with lower exercise levels when measured up to 10 years before diagnosis; this association held true when assessed 15-20 years beforehand. Similar results were seen when controlling for diet or conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or hypertension.

Researchers also observed that rate physical activity declined more quickly in people diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years prior to diagnosis compared to individuals without Parkinson’s, likely as a result of early Parkinsonian symptoms.

This study found that female individuals engaging in vigorous physical activity have a significantly reduced rate of Parkinson’s, with early Parkinson’s symptoms unlikely to explain these results; rather exercise could prevent or delay this condition and its onset; these results support developing exercise programs specifically designed to lower Parkinson’s risk.

Study limitations were that participants were predominantly health-conscious individuals, so results may not reflect those seen among a more general population. Furthermore, this research doesn’t prove that exercise lowers Parkinson’s risk – only showing an association.

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