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Physical exercise is beneficial for Parkinson's patients

Physical exercise is beneficial for Parkinson's patients

MONTREAL – Intense physical activity may be able to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease in patients still in the early stages, a new study led by a Yale University researcher has concluded.

Physical activity appears to protect the brain's substantia nigra, which Parkinson's disease gradually destroys. Exercise increases the amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter used by these cells, and neuromelanin, a pigment in the brain that gives this area of ​​the brain its dark appearance.

If we have known for several years that physical exercise appears to be able to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, as Professor Louis-Eric Trudeau, a specialist in this disease at the University of Montreal, pointed out, “there is no therapeutic strategy that can slow the disease.” Disease progression.

“But what's interesting about this study is (the researchers) asked themselves whether we could slow down, but not necessarily eliminate, the disease process in people who are at the beginning of the disease through a fairly intense exercise program.” He added.

The authors wrote that participants in this study reached 80% of their theoretical maximum heart rate during two-thirds of the training sessions. They reached 70% of their maximum heart rate in more than 85% of the sessions, meaning they reached an intensity level higher than “moderate” most of the time.

“We're not talking about riding a stationary bike while watching TV or reading a book, but it's not Ironman (triathlon style) training either,” Mr. Trudeau said. “It will be accessible to a lot of people.”

However, he said that it is still necessary to validate the results obtained within the framework of a larger study, especially since there was no control group this time.

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This study focused on only about ten topics. However, after six months of training, imaging of their brains showed that “not only was there no decrease, but there was also an upward trend in markers of the dopamine system.” Mr. Trudeau noted.

“It is, it is most notable”, at-il affirmé, it is more likely that the scientific literature has cleared the screen of marqueurs associated with the dopaminergique system in the anniversaries that suivent the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, at-he adds.

In addition, Mr. Trudeau added, during the six months that the project lasted, study participants did not need additional medications to increase the amount of dopamine available in their brains, which should normally have been the case.

He noted that other studies have shown that people who engage in regular physical activity have a lower overall prevalence of several neurodegenerative diseases, not just Parkinson's.

“And when they do get these diseases, the symptoms are often less severe,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Multiple studies in recent years have shown that it is not too late to be physically active in the face of disease. Even patients with serious heart disease or aggressive cancer can benefit from it.

The same now appears to be true for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, especially since “a kind of timer is activated when the disease is diagnosed,” Mr. Trudeau recalls.

The disease can actually go unnoticed for many years, he said, “because our brain is so good at compensating.” But the pathological process is still ongoing, and when the diagnosis is made it is because the dopamine systems in the brain are affected.

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At this point, based on studies like this, “there is even more reason to take action (…) because there may be hope for slowing the progression of degeneration in our brain.”

“We may think it's too late to change our lifestyle, but this type of study shows that maybe it's not too late,” Trudeau said. “We may have been very inactive in previous years or even decades, but we can always change course.”

The results of this study were published in the journal npj Parkinson's Disease, a member of the prestigious Nature scientific family.