How exercise helps with Parkinson’s disease

Mar 23, 2023, 5:34 PM | Updated: 6:22 pm

PARK CITY, Utah — Parkinson’s disease is affecting more and more people across the nation. While there is no cure, one thing is showing promise in improving symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease causes brain cells that make dopamine to stop working or die. Dopamine is a chemical that coordinates movement. Losing dopamine cells can create a tremor, cause stiffness, and even loss of balance.

Dr. Kathleen Mckee, neurology specialist at Intermountain Health said while there is currently no drug or surgery that can slow down the disease, exercise does appear to help.

“We know for sure that exercise improves their motor symptoms, and we have growing evidence that it probably slows down the disease,” she said.

The fast movements of pedaling have made all the difference for Lamont Dorrity.

“I love it, I really do, it’s helped me immensely,” Dorrity said.

He has Parkinson’s disease and it’s affected the way he moves.

“I have what I call a swagger, I do a swagger kind of movement when I walk,” he said.

He exercises several times a day by swimming and pedaling on a bicycle.

“If I didn’t do the exercises, I know that my symptoms would increase substantially,” Dorrity said.

Intermountain Health offers a pedaling class that helps reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Nick Francis, an exercise physiologist at Park City’s Intermountain Health said that pedaling at a cadence of 80 for 40 minutes can help and reduce symptoms for hours after.

“They see a reduction in tremor, their balance is better, and see more strength and mobility, all the other things that come with exercise,” he said.

2022 Parkinson’s Foundation study revealed nearly 90,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year – a 50% increase from previous estimates.

Dr. Mckee said Parkinson’s may be tied to genetic or environmental factors like exposure to pesticides.

“Then we have a lot of patients where they get Parkinson’s out of the blue and we can’t pin it to one thing,” she said.

Dorrity plans to keep fighting the disease, through exercise.

“I want to stay ahead of the disease, and I work hard to do that,” he said.

The cycling class is offered at Park City Hospital two times a week, for more information, click here.

Mckee is doing more research on how exercise and aerobics help with the treatment of Parkinson’s.

She said they are looking for people with very early Parkinson’s. If you are interested in being a part of the study, you can find more information here.

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How exercise helps with Parkinson’s disease