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Intense Physical Activity Cuts Parkinson's Risk

Strenuous Exercise Lowers Risk for Men but Not Women, Study Finds

How Do Results Differ for Men and Women?

Strenuous activity, but not moderate activity, was the key. "A 50% risk reduction was observed when comparing men in the highest category of vigorous physical activity vs. those in the lowest [category]," write the researchers.

Moderate activities included walking, hiking outdoors, and stair climbing. The remaining activities were defined as vigorous.

For men, the benefit traced back to early adulthood.

"In men, levels of strenuous physical activity in high school, college, and ages 30 to 40 predicted the risk of Parkinson's disease in later life," write the researchers.

Men who engaged in strenuous activities for at least 10 months per year during those periods had a 60% lower risk of Parkinson's disease than men who spent no more than two months per year in such activities, write the researchers.

Activity wasn't found to have the same protective effect for women. "Neither total nor vigorous physical activity was inversely associated with Parkinson's disease risk in women," write the researchers.

The researchers say that more research is needed to look at why gender differences exist in exercise's protective effect against Parkinson's disease.

Activity Drops Before Diagnosis

Both men and women began to become less physically active several years before being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, say the researchers.

They found that men who developed Parkinson's disease already had significantly lower levels of physical activity 12 years before diagnosis. Women became less active two to four years before diagnosis, but the trend slowed down two years after diagnosis.

The prediagnosis decline in activity may be due to changes that "may limit the patient's capability to tolerate vigorous exercises," say the researchers. They say other large studies are needed to confirm their findings and further explore the topic.

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