Wednesday, November 14, 2012 Low-intensity Exercise Shows Greatest Benefit for Patients With Parkinson Disease Physical activity, including walking on a treadmill and stretching and resistance exercise, appears to improve gait speed, muscle strength, and fitness for patients with Parkinson disease, say researchers at the University of Maryland. Their article is published online in Archives of Neurology. The researchers compared 67 people with Parkinson disease who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 exercise groups: walking on a treadmill at low intensity for 50 minutes, higher-intensity treadmill training to improve cardiovascular fitness for 30 minutes, and using weights (leg presses, extensions and curls) and stretching exercises to improve muscle strength and range of motion. Participants exercised 3 times a week for 3 months under the supervision of exercise physiologists at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. The investigators found improved cardiovascular fitness in both the higher- and lower-intensity treadmill exercise groups. However, only the stretching and resistance exercises improved muscle strength (16% increase) during the study. One key measurement was distance covered during a 6-minute walk, where all 3 types of exercisers showed improvement compared with their baseline measurement: lower-intensity treadmill exercise (12% increase), stretching and resistance exercises (9% increase), and higher-intensity treadmill exercises (6% increase). "We are encouraged to see that the lower-intensity treadmill exercise, which is feasible for most Parkinson patients, proved to have the greatest benefit for mobility while also improving cardiovascular fitness," said Lisa Shulman, MD, the study's principle investigator. E. Ray Dorsey, MD, coauthor of an accompanying journal editorial, told HealthDay News, "I hope this study adds to the evidence that exercise should be the standard of care."