Exercise for Parkinson's

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
February 14, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
When a person is diagnosed with a neurological condition like Parkinson's -- medications do not always help.But now doctors say exercise may be the answer. Seven's on Call Dr. Jay Adlersberg has more.

Most medical studies look at the effects drugs have on various diseases. But doctors in Maryland want to see if good old sweat and hard work can make a difference for patients with Parkinson's.

John Kendell, 61-year-old, isn't an athlete. But for the last two months, he's been hitting the gym regularly.

At first, his Parkinson's made it tough.

"I was stiff and my hand didn't move along my side," said John Kendell.

But now...

"At this slower speed we're going now, I can stand and I can think about moving my hand," said John Kendall.

Alan Sidlowski has trouble with simple movements.

"I had very limited mobility in my hand and my leg," said Alan Sidlowski.

But seven months in the gym and...

"I've improved tremendously," said Alan Sidlowski.

These men are part of a study aimed at finding out if exercise can do what medication often can't for patients with neurological conditions like Parkinson's.

"Medications have been somewhat disappointing to prevent disability related to walking and balance," said M.D. Lisa Shulman, associate professor of neurology at University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Researchers say strength exercises, aerobic activity or gait practice may actually be able to retrain the brain.

"The potential for exercise to cause some rewiring and remodeling would be effective in either case," said Lisa Shulman, M.D.

Physical and emotional improvements for each of 70 patients will be monitored for three months.

"Frankly, if it showed improvement in those areas alone, that would be a big advance," said M.D. Shulman.

Official results are two years away, but so far...

"I'm a lot better now than I was. But who knows what's going to be," said Alan Sidlowski.

Their progress is a good sign.