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Research shows exercise can slow Parkinson's

2 November 2004

Research shows exercise can slow Parkinson's

Exciting new research findings from the United States backs up Parkinsons
New Zealand's Awareness week theme Keep moving, Keep fit.

The University of Pittsburgh study, released last week, found that
exercise had a major impact on rats given a toxin that induces

The findings were so striking that the researchers are now planning a
pilot study with human volunteers. A group of people with the condition
will be given 60-minute exercise routines three times a week.

"This study strengthens the argument that for people with Parkinson's
exercise is a strategic component, helping to improve body strength and
muscle tone, and slowing the progression of the condition," said
Parkinsons New Zealand National Director Deirdre O'Sullivan. "As well as
improving general health and well-being, exercise seems to improve the
body's response to dopamine - a component of most Parkinson's

The US researchers examined the brains of rats that had exercised for
seven days before receiving a toxin that is known to induce a disease
resembling Parkinson's in rodents.
They compared these animals to rats that had not been exercised before
receiving the toxin.

Exercise appeared to protect the brain against Parkinson's type damage.
Fewer dopamine-containing nerve cells, or neurons, died in the exercised
rats compared to the sedentary rats.

Chief researcher, Professor Michael Zigmond, co-director of the
Parkinson's disease Centre for Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh
said, "We are certainly encouraged that in our experimental models we can
demonstrate that this sort of forced exercise improves motor function and
protects the neurons affected by the disease."

The team is now looking at more clinically relevant forms of exercise,
such as running.

Ms O'Sullivan said, "There are things that people with Parkinson's can do
to dramatically increase their quality of life by making some practices
part of their daily routine. Regular exercise, being part of a support
group, maintaining a healthy diet and having accurate information about
Parkinson's are just some of the things people might consider. Working
together with our Parkinson's Field Officers and divisions people can
ensure that they are managing their condition in the best possible way."

Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive condition which occurs when
insufficient quantities of the chemical dopamine are produced by the
brain. This causes many changes in the body's ability to initiate
movement and can affect balance and coordination. Symptoms vary in
individuals but the main ones are tremor, slowness of movement and


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