Stay one step ahead of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative condition of the brain, affects about 1% of people over the age of 60. The symptoms range from a mild non-disabling tremor to more troublesome symptoms like slowness, troubles with motor movements and troubles with balance leading to falls.

It’s known that there are some prodromal – or early – symptoms of Parkinson’s that show up some time before the main symptoms of tremor which are: rigidity, slowness and balance problems. It’s also known that physical exercise is an important part of the treatment for Parkinson’s disease along with medication, and that being physically active improves long term outcomes in people with Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, the risk of Parkinson’s is reduced in people who are typically physically active during their lives.

A study from researchers at Harvard joins these concepts together and actually shows that physical activity during young and middle adulthood is associated with reduced tendencies for even the prodromal symptoms of Parkinson’s, namely constipation, body pains, REM behavior disorder (restless sleeping and acting out dreams), daytime sleepiness, and depression. Of course these common symptoms don’t always necessarily lead to the development of Parkinson’s, but it still lends support to the benefit of exercise not only for Parkinson’s, but other problems as well. And the degree of protection from these symptoms associated with physical activity was similar to the protection from developing Parkinson’s. So it seems there must be some link supporting the robust benefit of exercise across the spectrum of Parkinson’s disease.

It’s hard to find any evidence against exercise as beneficial for the aging human. Of course, I must mention: please don’t embark on a major exercise regimen without advice from your doctor, especially if you have any health concerns. And based on my personal experience, don’t expect you can keep up with your 13 year-old budding cross-country running star. This leads to body pains and an unnecessary sense of failure.

-DS (8-10-20)