Exercise May Help Parkinson's Patients

6/13/2008 Fresno, CA 61-year-old John Kendell isn't an athlete. But for the last two months, he's been hitting the gym on a regular basis.

At first, his Parkinson's made it tough. "I was stiff and my hand didn't move along my side," said Kendell, but now, "at this slower speed we're going now, I can stand and I can think about moving my hand."

Alan Sidlowski has trouble with simple movements. But after seven months in the gym he said "I've improved tremendously."

The men are part of a study to see if exercise can do what medications can't for neurological conditions like Parkinson's. Lisa Shulman, MC, an Associate Professor of Neurology said, "Medications have been somewhat disappointing to prevent disability related to walking and balance."

Researchers claim 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," explains Shulman.

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 Shulman.

Official results are two years away, but so far Sidlowski says, "i'm a lot better now than i was. But who knows what's going to be."

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