People with Parkinson`s disease who walk on a treadmill at a comfortable, low-intensity speed for a longer duration may be able to improve their gait and mobility, according to a new study.
The researchers from the University of Maryland School Of Medicine and the Baltimore VA Medical Center found such exercise may be better than walking at faster speeds for a shorter period of time.
They also found benefits for stretching and resistance exercises.
"Our study showed that low-intensity exercise performed for 50 minutes three times a week was the most beneficial in terms of helping participants improve their mobility. Walking difficulty is the major cause of disability in Parkinson`s disease," said Lisa Shulman, principal investigator and professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"These results show that exercise in people with Parkinson`s disease can make a difference in their function. Exercise may, in fact, delay disability and help to preserve independence," she said.
"Many patients ask us what kind of exercise they should be doing. Now we can tell them that this research shows that low-intensity walking, which most people with Parkinson`s can do, combined with stretching and resistance training may be the best option," she added.
The study compared 67 people with Parkinson`s disease who were randomly assigned to one of three exercise groups: walking on a treadmill at low intensity for 50 minutes, higher-intensity treadmill training to improve cardiovascular fitness for 30 minutes, and using weights (leg presses, extensions and curls) and stretching exercises to improve muscle strength and range of motion.
Participants exercised three times a week for three months under the supervision of exercise physiologists at the Baltimore VA Medical Center.
The team measured participants` cardiovascular fitness before and after training, and found cardiovascular improvement in both the low- and high-intensity groups. Other measurements included the distance covered in a six-minute walk and timed tests of walking short distances, such as 50 feet.
The results were presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Honolulu.