50 Days To Mt. Kilimanjaro – Exercise & Cognitive Function In Parkinson’s Disease

There was more exciting news this week on the positive benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s patients involving improved cognitive functions. This study was a subject highlighted at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. This study further illustrates why exercise should be included in the daily regimen for PD patients.

Just a few days ago, I published another article on the benefits of exercise that focused on improvement in mobility and balance. The combination of these two studies surely must send a powerful message to physicians and patients as they determine a course of treatment for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, especially since these are the two major areas of concern with Parkinson’s patients.

I find such stark differences in how exercise is perceived as a normal part of life in the baby boomer generation, versus the generation that our parents were from. I know that is a very broad statement, but living in Florida I see so many seniors, (of my parents generation) who see no benefit in maintaining some form of physical exercise. On the other hand, I see those seniors like my own Father and Bob, Geoffrey’s 82 year old golf buddy who stay active, and reap the benefits! Given the choice, my vote is on staying active and continuing to work out as we age!

I am so happy that Geoffrey is so into working out – I am grateful that he has helped me to see the benefits of working out! How much better our lives will be for making the effort to stay physically fit! Geoff has taken such proactive steps in maintaining his life in spite of  being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and we see the benefits daily. We are so thankful for this study and the positive impact it will have on the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease.

From a much more simple point of view on the subject of exercise; Do you know how great it is to eat anything you desire and not worry (too much) about gaining weight? Geoff always told me; if you work out three days a week, to the point of breaking a good sweat, you can eat anything you want without gaining weight! Brownies tonight at the Parker house! 🙂 pkp

Exercise Improved Cognitive Function in Patients With Parkinson’s
By: DOUG BRUNK, Internal Medicine News Digital Network

HONOLULU – Patients with Parkinson’s disease who participated in a 1-hour exercise program twice a week for 6 months experienced improvements in certain cognitive deficits, results from a single-center study showed.

“Exercise should be considered adjunct therapy in Parkinson’s disease because it improves cognitive function in patients when not on medication,” lead study author Jeffrey R. Olech said in an interview during a poster session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Mr. Olech, a second-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his associates presented results from 48 Parkinson’s disease patients who completed 6 months of a strengthening and balance exercise program under the guidance of a personal trainer. The researchers administered cognitive assessments when patients were “on” and “off” Parkinson’s medication at baseline and at completion of the 6-month program.

Cognitive tests included the Stroop Color and Word Test, the Brief Test of Attention (BTA), and the Digit Span Forward and Backward Task. The researchers performed a two-way repeated measures analysis of variance on the cognitive measures with time (baseline vs. 6 months) and medication (on vs. off) as factors.

The mean age of patients was 59 years, and 58% were men. The mean baseline motor United Parkinson Disease Rating Scale score was 34.6 among those off medication and 21.3 among those on medication.

At 6 months, exercise and medication use significantly improved cognitive function based on results of the Stroop Color and Word Test. A significant interaction was observed between exercise and medication use based on results of the BTA test and the Digit Span Forward and Backward Task. Exercise improved performance on both of these tests when patients were off medication, but not while they were on medication.

“It was surprising to us that cognitive function was improved without medication over different domains of cognitive assessments,” Mr. Olech said. “Previous research has demonstrated that Parkinson’s patients on medication without exercise will maintain their level of cognitive performance over a 6-month period of time. Reasons improvement on cognitive outcomes off medication were observed could potentially be due to increased neural plasticity as a result of exercise, or an improvement in dopaminergic output during periods throughout the day that the drug’s therapeutic benefit wanes.”

He and his associates plan to collect data in this cohort of patients at 18 and 24 months of follow-up to determine if the associations persist.

Mr. Olech acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including its lack of an intervention control group and its single-center design.

The study was supported by an American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Summer Research Scholarship and by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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