HealthDay News — For patients with Parkinson’s disease, high-intensity treadmill exercise seems feasible and safe, according to a study published online in JAMA Neurology.

Margaret Schenkman, PhD, from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, and colleagues conducted a phase 2 trial to examine the feasibility and safety of high-intensity treadmill exercise in patients with de novo Parkinson’s disease who are not taking medication. Patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease within 5 years of diagnosis were randomized to six months of high-intensity treadmill exercise (4 days per week, 80% to 85% maximum heart rate; 43 patients), moderate-intensity treadmill exercise (4 days per week, 60% to 65% maximum heart rate; 45 patients), or wait-list control (40 patients).

The researchers found that the exercise rates were 2.8 and 3.2 days per week at 80.2% and 65.9% maximum heart rate in the high-intensity and the moderate-intensity groups, respectively. The mean change in Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale motor score was 0.3 and 3.2 in the high-intensity and usual-care groups, respectively (P=.03). Compared with the control group, the high-intensity group, but not the moderate-intensity group, reached the predefined non-futility threshold. There were no severe anticipated adverse musculoskeletal events.

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“High-intensity treadmill exercise may be feasible and prescribed safely for patients with Parkinson disease,” the authors write.

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Schenkman M, Moore CG, Cohrt WM, et al. Effect of high-intensity treadmill exercise on motor symptoms in patients with de novo Parkinson disease: a phase 2 randomized clinical trial [published online December 11, 2017]. JAMA Neurol. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3517