High-intensity strength training helped significantly improve quality of life, mood, and motor function in older adults with Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers based at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The study, which appears in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reportedly encompassed a total of 15 participants with moderate Parkinson’s.
The participants, the university notes in a news release, underwent 16 weeks of high-intensity training blended with interval training, intended to simultaneously challenge strength, power, endurance, balance, and mobility function. The researchers state that participants were compared before and after the 16 weeks to age-matched controls without Parkinson’s and who did not undergo the exercise regimen.
The participants were required to perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of a range of strength training exercises. These included leg or overhead presses, with a one-minute interval between sets for high-repetition, and bodyweight exercises such as lunges or pushups.
Marcas Bamman, PhD, professor in the department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, lead study author, explains that during the study researchers observed, “improvements in strength, muscle size and power…but we also saw improvement in balance and muscle control.” Bamman adds that the researchers saw improvement in cognition, mood, and sense of well-being.
Neil Kelly, MA, graduate student trainee, first study author, says the researchers pushed the patients throughout the exercise period and, “We used a heart rate monitor to measure exercise intensity—keeping the heart rate high through the entire 40-minute session.”
The study results indicate that participants exhibited a number of significant improvements, including six points on average on a measure called the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale and a sit-to-stand test that demonstrated, post-strength training, participants dropped from requiring 90% of maximum muscle recruitment to rise to a standing position to just 60%, putting them on par with the controls.
Bamman emphasizes that the study’s findings suggest that, “strength training produced a major improvement in the ability to activate muscles, to generate power, and to produce energy, all of which can contribute to improved quality of life and reduction of injury risk from falls.”