Healthy lifestyle choices like exercise slow aging and prevent Parkinson’s
Parkinson's disease causes the loss of cells that make dopamine, leading to an impairment of automatic movements, including walking, balance and mobility, as well as deficits in thinking and mood.
About 1 in 100 people over the age of 50 will be affected by Parkinson's disease.
While there's no cure for Parkinson's, healthy lifestyle choices like exercise may help ward off the disease and improve quality of life, according to Dr. Giselle Petzinger, a neurologist at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California in Los Angeles who specializes in Parkinson's disease.
"It doesn't mean it stops it, but it definitely attenuates or decreases the risk of getting Parkinson's disease," Petzinger says. "We can't stop every injury, but we can certainly handle them better by bolstering lifestyle through our life."
Research reviews in Lancet Neurology in 2013 and in Brain Plasticity in 2015 show that exercise bolsters circuitry in the brain to help prevent Parkinson's and slow disease progression.
Different types of exercise that are challenging both physically and mentally are helpful in Parkinson's disease.
There are two ways to define intensity. One involves the cognitive challenge of the task itself that requires skill. The other is aerobic exercise, which elevates heart rate.
Skill-based activities such as yoga, boxing, tai-chi, hiking, dance and golf, for example, tap into automatic movements such as gait, balance and processing .
Aerobic exercise like cycling, swimming and running has been extensively studied in aging where its shown benefits in memory and cognition. Completing about 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise is generally effective. These benefits are also seen in Parkinson's disease.
Cardiovascular exercise helps maintain new circuits, engaging the brain and body through changes in the immune system, blood flow and metabolism. The body can communicate to the brain through neurotrophic factors or cellular growth factors that act as fertilizer made by body tissues like muscle.