REGULAR exercise may decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study that included 95,354 female participants (average age: 49 years). While the results indicate that those who exercised the most had a 25% lower rate of Parkinson’s disease than those who exercised the least, this study only shows an association.
During the study, participants completed up to six questions about the type of activities that they participated in, as well as the amount of time they took. For example, the participants were asked how many hours they spent doing household tasks, moderate recreational activities such as gardening, and vigorous activities such as sports.
Researchers assigned scores depending on the metabolic equivalent of the task (MET) to quantify energy expenditure. These were multiplied by the frequency and duration of the physical activity to get a MET-hours per week score, where more intense exercises received 6 METs, and less intense 3 METs.
At the start of the study, the average activity level was 45 MET-hours per week, with those in the highest group having 71 MET-hours per week and the lowest having 27. The researchers then followed the participants, who did not have Parkinson’s disease at the study start, for three decades.
During that time, 1,074 participants developed Parkinson’s disease. After adjusting for other factors (e.g., smoking status, location of residence, etc.), the researchers found that the participants in the highest exercise group had a 25% lower rate of developing Parkinson’s disease than those in the lowest group when assessed for up to 10 years before diagnosis. This association also remained when activity was assessed up to 20 years before a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Study author Alexis Elbaz, Inserm Research Center, Paris, France, stated: “Our results provide evidence for planning intervention. Exercise is a low-cost way to improve health overall, so our study sought to determine if it may be linked to a lower risk, to prevent Parkinson’s disease.”
However, one limitation of the study is that most participants were health-conscious and had volunteered in the study. Therefore, the results may be different in a study of wider population.