(HealthDay News) – Parkinson’s disease patients with gait impairment see improvements in gait speed, muscle strength, and fitness after physical exercise.

Lisa M. Shulman, MD, from the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues randomly assigned 67 patients with Parkinson’s disease and gait impairment to one of three exercise programs: high-intensity treadmill exercise, low-intensity treadmill exercise, and stretching and resistance exercises – all three times a week for three months.

The researchers found that all three programs improved distance on the six-minute walk, with a 12% improvement for low-intensity treadmill exercise (P=0.001), a 9% improvement for stretching and resistance exercises (P<0.02), and a 6% improvement for high-intensity treadmill exercise (P=0.07). Both low- and high-intensity treadmill exercise improved peak oxygen consumption per unit time by 7–8% (P<0.05). Only stretching and resistance exercises improved muscle strength (by 16% [P<0.001]).

“Therefore, exercise can improve gait speed, muscle strength, and fitness for patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Shulman and colleagues conclude. “The combination of treadmill and resistance exercises may result in greater benefit and requires further investigation.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry; one author has been a consultant on several legal cases.

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