Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

A Weighty Matter: Weight Training Has Positive Effect on Parkinson’s

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I’m interested in this story because my physiotherapist gave me some weights-based exercises right at the beginning – and because I (unexpectedly) found that I liked them. Part of the reason for that is that they don’t take long and that the equipment doesn’t, really, take up much space (although my weekend bag is inordinately heavy these days). In fact, performing the exercise itself doesn’t take up much space either.

I first spotted the news that weight training is the latest “best” exercise in a Telegraph article, which describes how two groups of Parkinson’s patients were compared, one working with weights, the other following a program called “‘fitness counts’, which includes flexibility, balance and strengthening exercises.” The article goes on:

Each group exercised for an hour, twice a week, for two years.

Their physical symptoms were measured after six, 12, 18 and 24 months.Participants in both groups saw improvements in […] their “motor symptoms” – those regarding muscular control – after six months.

However, those who did weights saw that improvement last the whole two years, while those on the other programme reverted to the same scores they had at the start of the study.

– from the article in The Telegraph ( by , Medical Correspondent)

Neither the scientific paper reporting this research nor its abstract seem to be available online at present (the paper is due to be presented to the American Academy of Neurology annual conference in New Orleans next week), so I’m relying on what The Telegraph has to say. Mind you, pretty much all of the news articles on the subject seem to use variations on the same text. At least one – Psychcentral – tells us “Source: The American Academy of Neurology“, but the link didn’t take me to anything recognisable as the source. No doubt I would need to be logged in, or I just missed something.

Anyway, back to The Telegraph, who report:

Professor Daniel Corcos, of the University of Illinois in Chicago, said: “Our results suggest that long-term weight training could be considered by patients and doctors as an important component in managing Parkinson’s disease.”

Explaining why weight training worked better, he said: “The neuromuscular system responds to overload. The progressive resistance program continues to challenge the neuromuscular system. Fitness Counts does not.”

He added: ” I also think, but can not prove, that there is a motivational component. Many people lose interest in repeating the same exercise over and over again but respond to that challenge of getting stronger.”

I’d be inclined to agree about the motivational thing. It’s been quite gratifying to move up through the dumbbell set that I own. I’m on the 3 kg ones at the moment – hovering between 10 and 15 repetitions (in sets of 3) depending on how I’m feeling – and I’m wondering where to go after that.

Mind you, I still reckon that combining weight training with other exercises (hmm – weekly yoga, hill walking at any reasonable opportunity, occasional cycling…) has got to be closer to the ultimate answer. But I feel happy that maybe I’m doing something right.

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3 thoughts on “A Weighty Matter: Weight Training Has Positive Effect on Parkinson’s

  1. It seems they keep uncovering more benefits of weight lifting ever few years. Not so long ago it was cardio’s ugly cousin, but now… now it’s a totally different story.

    In any case, it’s great that it is working for you. I reckon you are probably right that a combination of exercises is best; that’s the way it usually goes for pretty much all health related things.

    • I know very little about past perception of weight lifting, so it’s nice to have your input, Alan. I’ve been told that my lack of history – and of machismo – is probaly beneficial as it means that I don’t leap in and start throwing stupidly heavy barbells around.

  2. Late night “Googling” brought me to your remarks on weightlifting. I was diagnosed with PD in 1998. From January 2000 I’ve engaged in vigorous exercise, particularly weightlifting involving all parts of my body. Long ago, I observed that PD doesn’t impede strength or (at maximum exertion) speed.
    See
    http://www.stumptuous.com/shaky-man-in-the-gym-3-trembling-but-no-fear
    I’ve written as “shaky man” since 2005. The above link takes you to part 3 of my blog.
    See also parts 1 and 2.
    You’ll find videos, confirming my exercise habits at this site. (This is a Canadian-based women’s weightlifting website. I’m neither a woman nor a Canadian.)
    Neil Sligar, Sydney, Australia

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