April 23, 2007 -- People who exercise regularly may be less
likely to develop Parkinson's disease -- but
leisurely strolls may not be enough.
That news comes from a study of more than 143,300 U.S. men and women who
were followed from 1992-2001.
When the study started, participants were 63 years old, on average. They
reported their weekly hours of light exercise (walking or dancing) and moderate
to vigorous exercise (jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, playing
tennis or racquetball, or doing aerobics or calisthenics).
A total of 413 participants were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease by the
end of the study.
The most active participants were the least likely to develop Parkinson's
disease in the next decade, according to the researchers, who included Evan
Thacker, SM, of Harvard School of Public Health.
"The most important thing we learned from this study was that high levels of
moderate to vigorous recreational physical activity (like biking, swimming,
aerobics, etc.) were associated with lower Parkinson's disease risk," Thacker
"Those with the highest levels of recreational physical activity at the
beginning of the study had a lower risk of getting Parkinson's disease over the
next 10 years, compared to the people with low levels of recreational physical
activity or none at all," says Thacker.
Thacker will present the study in Boston on May 1, 2007 at the American
Academy of Neurology's 59th annual meeting.
How Much Exercise?
The drop in Parkinson's disease risk was only seen in people who got a lot
of moderate to vigorous exercise.
"People who reported the highest levels of recreational physical activity in
the study were doing about the equivalent of 5-6 hours of aerobics or 3-4 hours
of lap swimming each week ," says Thacker.
"Their Parkinson's disease risk was 40% lower than the people who reported
zero physical activity, or only light activities like walking," he says.