Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), recently conducted a small study to learn whether a training program designed to challenge strength, power, endurance, balance and mobility could produce benefits for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Fifteen patients with moderately advanced Parkinson’s participated in the 16-week program, which consisted of three 40-minute sessions per week. According to the authors, “The core prescription for strength and power development consisted of progressive resistance training (RT) for the major muscle groups with five exercises (leg press, knee extension, chest press, overhead press, lat pull-down) . . . . Subjects also completed 3 sets of abdominal crunches each session. . . . Between RT sets, subjects performed 1–2 body weight exercises (e.g., squat, push-up, step-up, lunge, side lunge, modified dip) for 45–60 [seconds, or did a 60-second] interval on a treadmill or stationary cycle.” Control group members included 15 age-matched individuals who did not have Parkinson’s disease and who did not take part in any exercise protocol.
Study author Marcas Bamman, PhD, a professor in the department of cell, developmental and integrative biology at UAB, said in a university news release, “We saw improvements in strength, muscle size and power, which we expected after rigorous weight training; but we also saw improvement in balance and muscle control . . . [and] in cognition, mood and sense of well-being.”
“These are all indications that strength training produced a major improvement in the ability to activate muscles, to generate power and to produce energy,” said Bamman. “All of which can contribute to improved quality of life and reduction of injury risk from falls.”
The findings were reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2014; doi: 10.1152/jap plphysiol.01277.2013). More research is needed with a larger sample size.