We all know that exercise is one of the most important aspects of how to lead a healthy lifestyle.\nBut it can also help Parkinson\u2019s disease patients potentially lead a more fulfilling and active life. Before the development of effective drug therapies in the 1960s, doctors would have their patients exercise as much as possible to combat the progressive symptoms of the disease, even though there was no research to back the claim.\nAnd while today\u2019s medications offer patients some relief, most of the drugs have serious side effects and can lose effectiveness over time.\nNow, recent studies have shown that exercising three times a week at a level high enough to break a sweat and raise the heart rate can counter, and even delay, the onset of progressive Parkinson\u2019s symptoms. In fact, the research is so promising that The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson\u2019s Research has funded close to $3 million in exercise research.\nHow Exercise Benefits Those With Parkinson\u2019s\nParkinson\u2019s disease affects the brain by killing off brain cells, or neurons, that control dopamine. This brain chemical allows the neurons to communicate with muscles throughout the body. When this process is disrupted, abnormal movements occur, as well as the decline of motor skills, such as walking or writing, or tying shoes.\nResearch at the University of Pittsburgh shows that in animal studies, lab mice produce increased blood flow and synapses, or message paths, between neurons when exercising. This means that the neurons are firing with more energy and are living longer, which can slow the progression of Parkinson\u2019s disease symptoms.\n\u201cExercise is a very important part in trying to treat Parkinson\u2019s disease,\u201d explains Mark Richardson, MD, PhD, UPMC Neurosurgeon and Parkinson\u2019s disease expert. \u201cWe always try to keep patients on an active regimen because in addition to helping slow the symptoms, exercise can also help improve gait, balance, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination, which is important when dealing with such a debilitating disease.\u201d\nWhat Exercises Are Beneficial?\nParkinson\u2019s patients can benefit from a variety of exercises, but one important aspect to remember, according to Dr. Richardson, is the more intensity the better.\n\u201cI always advise my patients to exercise with intensity for as long as possible as often as possible. Research shows that intense exercise helps the brain use dopamine more efficiently, thus possibly slowing the progress of Parkinson\u2019s disease.\u201d\nExercises that are beneficial for Parkinson\u2019s disease patients include:\n\nCycling\nRowing\nNon-contact boxing\nSwimming and water aerobics\nHigh intensity walking\n\nOther activities that may also be beneficial for patients with Parkinson\u2019s disease include:\n\nWeight training\nPilates\nTai Chi\nYoga\n\nIf you would like to learn more about exercise for Parkinson\u2019s disease, as well as other developments in the field, visit the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery or call 1-877-986-9862 to schedule an appointment.