Can Exercise Reduce Symptoms of Parkinson’s?

The new Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute announced it will participate in an upcoming study targeting the results of physical and neurological impact of simple exercise on Parkinson’s patients.

Muhammed Ali, a Parkinson’s patient for 20+ years, helped unveil the new Parkinson’s center at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The new facility is 10,000 square-feet and is double the size of the center established in 1997.  It is believed to be the most comprehensive treatment center of its kind in the United States.

Ali and his wife, Lonnie, have wanted the Center’s focus to be enabling Parkinson’s patients to stay active and involved. The upcoming study will be funded by the National Institutes of Health and will be conducted in partnership with Arizona State University.

Darolyn O’Donnell, who will help lead the Exercise Training in Parkinson’s Disease:  Neural and Functional Benefits study at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center says, “Until now we have had only anecdotal evidence that regular physical activity is disease modifying.”

O’Donnell went on to explain that the simple exercise will involve pole-striding over a 12-week period for 3 days each week and 45 minutes per session.  Pole-striding is a simple activity that involves walking with a pole in each hand, much like the use of ski poles on snowy slopes.

Participants will be monitored and coached by staff members. Heart rate monitors and pedometers will be worn to measure the training’s intensity. The ages of study participants will vary from 50 to 70.

Narayanan Krishnamurthi’s research at the Center for Adaptive Neural Systems at Arizona State University has been a cornerstone in moving the study forward to determine the physical and neurological impact of exercise in Parkinson’s patients.  Sun Health Research Institute and the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute are also collaborating on this project.

“Their brain activity will be monitored several times during the study to identify changes.  We will be scanning all areas of the brain to see which areas are impacted by exercise,” Krishnamurthi asserts.  “From there we can determine if the progression of Parkinson’s disease can be slowed or even stopped by exercise.”  The 9-month study is unique, according to Krishnamurthi, because it targets brain imaging, in addition to overseeing their physical symptoms.

The exercise portion of the clinical trial is scheduled to begin in January.



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