Exercise counters brain shrinkage in Parkinson’s disease

In an editorial published online in the journal JAMA Neurology, neurologist J Eric Ahlskog from Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recommends that modern physical therapy practices should incorporate aerobic exercise training and encourage fitness for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Aerobic exercise means vigorous exercise, which makes you hot, sweaty and tired, Ahlskog explained.

This could include activity such as walking briskly or using an elliptical machine.

That does not mean stretching or balance exercises are not helpful, Ahlskog noted. Those types of exercises help with Parkinson’s symptoms, such as rigid muscles, slowed movement or impaired posture and balance.

But to help fight the progression of Parkinson’s disease, including dementia — one of the most feared long-term outcomes of the disease, aerobic exercise enhances factors that potentially have a protective effect on the brain, Ahlskog noted.

For instance, aerobic exercise liberates trophic factors — small proteins in the brain that behave like fertiliser does when applied to your lawn, he said citing scientific studies.

Exercise helps maintain brain connections and counters brain shrinkage from Parkinson’s disease as well as from brain ageing, Ahlskog noted.

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