U-M Study: Daily Walks May Help Parkinson’s Patients Control Symptoms

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Patients with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, should consider doing daily activities and taking walks to control their systems, says new research out of the University of Michigan.

"What we found was it's not so much the exercise, but the routine activities from daily living that were protecting motor skills," says Dr. Nicolaas Bohnen, director of the U-M Functional Neuroimaging, Cognitive, and Mobility Laboratory, and one of authors of the report. "Sitting is bad for anybody, but it's even worse for Parkinson's patients."           

Dr. Bohnen says once patients feel unstable on their feet, they may develop a fear of falling and can become scared to do any activities. The researchers investigated the relationship between the duration of both non-exercise, such as doing dishes and folding laundry, and exercise from physical activity for nearly 50 Parkinson's disease patients. They found that non-exercise physical activity was linked to less severe motor symptoms.

While a loss of dopamine, an organic chemical in the body, has been thought of as the main reason why Parkinson’s patients become more sedentary, the researchers found non-exercise physical activity protected motor skills among patients with different levels of dopamine.

In the United States, at least 500,000 people are believed to suffer from Parkinson's disease, and about 50,000 new cases are reported annually, according to the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Strokes.

The report, Non-exercise physical activity attenuates motor symptoms in Parkinson disease independent from nigrostriatal degeneration, is published in Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.

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