Does exercise really help to lessen Parkinson’s symptoms?

The reason I’m so interested in Parkinson’s Disease is because my mom was diagnosed with it in 2009, when I was just a little pre-teen who really loved One Direction. Throughout the years, I have done my own research and found out more and more about PD and what it entails, but I’ve never really looked into why my mom’s doctor always talks about exercising. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) effects somewhere around one million people here in America and is obviously a very large factor in my life, and yet, some people reading this might still have absolutely no clue what it is. I’ll explain it really quickly for you. Basically, Parkinson’s is when your body kills off the nerve cells in your brain for an unknown reason. One of the most noticeable symptoms of PD is a tremor, or shaking, which is because some of those nerve cells that are killed are this chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is what controls a lot of your movement (maybe all of it, I’m taking all of this from what I’ve learned from my mom so do some of your own research too), so when it’s killed, you could develop a tremor. Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali both have or had Parkinson’s.\

Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

In my research online, I discovered that exercise is supposedly supposed to be able to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s as well as help to control some of the symptoms of the disease. The biggest clinical study of PD patients that has ever been done, which included thousands of people with PD in many different countries, found that exercise can help with symptoms such as balance and tremors and that both the level of intensity of the exercise and the length of the exercise (if you do it every day or just once a week) are factors. Researchers from the University of South Carolina also found, in a study on mice, that exercise helped the dopamine in their brains to stay where they needed it for longer due to an increase in the transporter that dopamine uses, and the cells that receive the dopamine had more area for the them to connect to. However, since we cannot look at the exact amount of dopamine in the brain until someone dies, we can’t be sure that this could be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. If someone has had PD for many years and likely has very few dopamine cells left, no matter how much better they’re being used, it may not be able to do much good.

rat-on-treadmill

After looking at this research, it seems that it’s very likely that exercise could be a great way for people in the earlier stages of Parkinson’s Disease to slow down the progression and lessen the symptoms. However, as Andrew always tells us, there’s always a possibility that it could all be due to chance. It’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t be reverse causation and, if this study was done well, there is pretty small chance that it would be caused by a third variable, since the study included so many different kinds of people from different places and living different lifestyles. It’s probably worth it for Parkinson’s patients to at least do a little bit of exercise regularly because it likely would not hurt them as long as they are careful and do not to any activities that they find too strenuous.

Pictures:

Here is where I found the picture of Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali.

Here is where I found that cool mouse getting in his daily run.

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