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Researchers looked at 31 Parkinson's patients who were randomly assigned to an "early start" group that did an exercise program for 48 weeks or a "late start" group that worked out for 24 weeks. The program included three one-hour cardiovascular and resistance training workouts a week.
Depression symptoms improved much more among the patients in the 48-week group than among those in the 24-week group. This is important because mood is often more debilitating than movement problems for Parkinson's patients, said study leader Dr. Ariane Park, a movement disorder neurologist at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.
The study was published online recently in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders.
More than half of Parkinson's patients have depression, Park noted in a university news release.
"We recommend exercise to all of our Parkinson's patients. Currently, there is no consensus on a standardized physical exercise regimen with regard to type, frequency and intensity," Park said. "The literature supports that any routine that improves physical fitness is good for Parkinson's disease -- and that can include walking, swimming, tai chi or even dancing," she added.
"We just want patients to move on a regular basis. Not only will they move better, but they will feel better," Park explained in the news release.
Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, affects more than one million Americans.
-- Robert Preidt
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