(ABC4 UTAH) Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah are taking part in an international study to help determine if high intensity exercise can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease behind Alzheimer’s. More than one-million people have Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. and people are newly diagnosed each year.

Medications help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but doctors have yet to find a way to stop it from getting worse. Exercise has shown promise, and doctors are hoping this North American study will give them the data to show it works.

“Endurance exercise programs are an important part of our patients’ treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” said Kathleen McKee, MD, neurologist and study lead at Intermountain Healthcare. “If we can prove certain forms of exercise slow down disease progression, it would be a major breakthrough in treating our patients.”

Researchers are looking for patients who are 40 to 80 years old and in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. They will be randomly selected to do moderate or high intensity treadmill workouts over the course of 18 months.

This is the first time a study of moderate and high intensity workouts is being studied across a large number of sites in the United States and Canada.

Researchers will study the impact these types of exercise have on the brain – and look for reduced inflammation in the body which is known to be higher in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“This study is the largest study to date of a non-pharmacologic intervention in Parkinson’s disease. We are excited to work to improve patients’ quality of life while investigating if aerobic exercise slows the rate of Parkinson’s disease progression, something no drug has been shown to do,” said Lee Dibble, Ph.D., professor of physical therapy and athletic training at the University of Utah and overall principal investigator of the Utah based sites

For more information about the study and to learn about eligibility, please call (801) 587-3181 or send an email to erin.suttman@utah.edu.

For more information about Intermountain Healthcare, visit their website.


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