A New Benefit of Exercise: Prevention Against Parkinson's Disease

If you’re looking for more motivation to get to the gym, there’s a new benefit of exercise: it may help in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease.

That’s the finding of a recent study, published in the journal Brain: A Journal of Neurology.

Researchers out of the the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm followed more than 43,000 adults over a 13-year period. The researchers used questionnaires to deduce as much information as possible about physical activity, which included housework, commute, work-related physical activity, exercise and leisure physical activity. The combined physical activity was converted into “metabolic equivalent” (MET) hours per day, assessing the estimated oxygen consumption for each activity.

“Participants were all healthy at the start of the study in 1997. By 2010, 286 individuals had developed Parkinson’s disease,” reports PsychCentral. “Those who spent more than six hours per week on housework and commuting had a 43 percent lower risk than those who spent fewer than two hours per week on these activities.”

Men who engaged in a “medium amount of physical activity—about 39 MET hours per day—had the lowest risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a disease of the motor system where the brain loses dopamine-producing cells. Symptoms include trembling in extremities, jaw and face, stiffness, slow movement and issues with balance and coordination leading to immobility. It currently affects more than 1 percent of people over age 60 and is the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Dr. Karin Wirdefeldt, the study’s lead author cites the study’s wide sampling of men and women and looking at subjects for an extended period of time. “The protective effect of physical activity was further supported when we summarized all available evidence from published prospective cohort studies. These findings are important for both the general population and for the health care of patients with Parkinson’s disease,” she said.

 While not a guarantee against developing Parkinson’s disease, the benefits of exercise extend far beyond burning calories and developing muscles. And making the time to get active seems more important now than ever.

Image: cpboingo

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