A Workout For Better Mobility

Exercise improves gait speed strength and fitness in those with Parkinsons disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Common knowledge says that exercise is good for the body and mind. How can exercise help people with mobility problems, like those living with Parkinson’s disease (PD)?

A recent study looks at the use of treadmill exercise, stretching and resistance training to improve gait speed, strength and fitness in patients with PD.

The study found that exercise can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve gait speed, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.

"Talk to your doctor about fitness routines."

Lisa M. Shulman, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and team studied 67 PD patients who had gait impairment. Gait, or the manner in which a person walks, is impaired in many people with PD. PD patients often experience small shuffling of steps, a general slowness of movement, or inability to move in severe cases.

Medications for gait impairment can be ineffective or cause side effects. For this reason health professionals have become more interested in improving gait in PD patients through natural methods.

In this study, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise routines. The routines were practiced three times a week for three months. The groups included a higher intensity treadmill exercise, a lower intensity treadmill exercise and a stretching and resistance exercise.

All three groups showed improvement in gait speed. The lower intensity treadmill group had the highest improvement in this category (12 percent), followed by stretching and resistance (nine percent), and higher intensity treadmill exercise (six percent).

Cardiovascular fitness improved with both treadmill exercises by seven to eight percent. Muscle strength improved only with stretching and resistance training. The amount of improvement was 16 percent.

It is not known why lower intensity treadmill exercise had a higher rate of gait improvement. It is possible that gait became sloppy when exercising at high intensity levels and form could be practiced better and longer on the lower intensity programs. Future research may investigate the combination of treadmill and resistance exercise to find the best recommended program.

The study was published in Archives of Neurology and was funded by a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Several authors reported direct and indirect financial connections and/or consultancy work with multiple pharmaceutical companies. They also reported links to various hospitals, medical associations, and medical publications.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 27, 2012
Last Updated:
March 20, 2013