(HealthDay News) — For individuals with Parkinson’s disease, an exercise program does not reduce falls overall, although it could help in milder disease, according to a study published online December 31 in Neurology.

Colleen G. Canning, PhD, from the University of Sydney, and colleagues examined fall prevention in a study involving 231 people with Parkinson’s disease randomized to exercise (practiced for 40–60 minutes, three times per week, for six months) or usual-care groups.

The researchers found that neither the rate of falls (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.45–1.17; P=0.18) nor the proportion of fallers (P=0.45) differed significantly between the groups. There was a significant interaction for disease severity in preplanned subgroup analysis (P<0.001). There were fewer falls in the exercise group than the control group in the lower disease severity subgroup (IRR, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.15–0.62; P<0.001), while there was a trend toward more falls in the exercise group within the higher disease severity subgroup (IRR, 1.61; 95% CI, 0.86–3.03; P=0.13). After adjustment for baseline performance, participants in the exercise group scored significantly better on the Short Physical Performance Battery, sit-to-stand, fear of falling, affect, and quality of life post-intervention than controls.

“These results suggest that minimally supervised exercise programs aimed at reducing falls in people with Parkinson’s should be started early in the disease process,” Canning said in a journal news release.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

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