Ohio – A new study by a movement disorder neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner
found that depression improved among patients with Parkinson’s disease who
participated in a long-term group exercise program.
The findings are published in the
journal Parkinsonism and
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive
neurodegenerative disorder that affects more than 1 million Americans. Each
year, about 60,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson’s patients develop progressive disability over time, despite the best
pharmacological and surgical management. Therefore, complementary approaches
that can maximize functional ability and improve quality of life are
In this pilot study, 31 patients
with Parkinson’s disease were randomly assigned to an “early start group” or a
“delayed start group” for a rigorous formal group exercise program that met for
one hour, three days a week. The early start group exercised for a total of 48
weeks, while the delayed start group exercised only the last 24 weeks. One
patient dropped out of the study.
“Our findings demonstrate that long-term
group exercise programs are feasible in the Parkinson’s disease population.
Patients enjoyed exercising, and they stayed with the program that included
cardiovascular and resistance training,” said principal investigator Dr. Ariane Park, a movement disorder
neurologist at the Madden Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders
at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
“Our study also showed that earlier
participation in a group exercise program significantly improved symptoms of
depression compared to the delayed start group, and this is important because
often mood can be more debilitating than motor symptoms,” Park said.
More than 50 percent of patients with
Parkinson’s disease suffer from depression, which is why it is important to
help patients find new ways to cope and improve their symptoms, said Park, who
also is a researcher in Ohio State’s Neuroscience Program.
Researchers had also hoped to show
that exercise could slow the progression of the disease, but the study did not
provide strong evidence of any ‘neuroprotective’ effect on motor function,
possibly because of the small sample size, Park said.
“We recommend exercise to all of our Parkinson’s
patients. Currently, there is no
consensus on a standardized physical exercise regimen with regard to type,
frequency and intensity. The literature supports that any routine that improves
physical fitness is good for Parkinson’s disease – and that can include
walking, swimming, tai chi or even dancing,” Park said. “We just want patients
to move on a regular basis. Not only will they move better, but they will feel
Other researchers include Xiaobai
Li, Allison Wehr, Andrea Malone, Alicia Rendon, David Zid and Jackie Russell.
The study was funded by the Madden
Center Development Fund; OSU Parkinson’s Disease Our Goal is a Cure Fund;
Columbus branch of the National Parkinson’s Foundation and OSU Center for
Clinical and Translational Science CTSA Grant number UL1TR000090.
The Ohio State University Wexner
Medical Center Neuroscience Program features 160 researchers and clinicians
collaborating in neurology, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation,
psychiatry and neuroscience research to create better methods of prevention,
detection and treatment for patients.
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photo of Dr. Ariane Park.
Eileen Scahill, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations,
614-293-3737, or Eileen.Scahill@osumc.edu