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Study shows exercise can help Parkinson’s sufferers

By Jessica Tobacman, Special to the Tribune, www.chicagotribune.com

Terry Musial, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has found new hope since she joined a research study at Rush University Medical Centerand the University of Illinois at Chicago in which patients exercised twice a week for an hour each.

The multiyear study has shown her that exercise — particularly lifting weights — can lessen the effects of Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that leads to shaking and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination.

“I thought that (exercise) made my medication more long-lasting,” said Musial, 57, of Naperville. “I noticed that, even without medication, I was stronger. I believe that you lose if you don’t move. I felt that exercise gave me hope.”

Daniel Corcos, a kinesiology professor at UIC and one of the study’s principal researchers, said “there’s clear scientific data that, if a patient with Parkinson’s disease exercises twice a week, the symptoms of their Parkinson’s disease will be reduced.” Corcos, who is also director of the university’s Neural Control of Movement Laboratory, presented the findings last week at the American Academy of Neurology conference in New Orleans.

Dr. Cynthia Comella, a neurological sciences professor at Rush who worked with Corcos on the study, called it “the first of its kind, (studying) the effect of two different forms of exercise on Parkinson’s disease over a two-year period. It’s never been done before.”

The study signed up Parkinson’s disease patients who were between the ages of 50 and 67 and were able to walk for at least six minutes.

The study began with 51 patients, and 38 patients were still exercising at its conclusion. They were divided into two groups, the Progressive Resistance Exercise group, with weight training designed to increase strength by raising the amount of weight lifted during the course of the study; and the Parkinson’s Disease: Fitness Counts group, with a program of stretching, strengthening and balance. Read the rest of the article here.

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