An Ugly Truth about Exercise

An Ugly Truth about Exercise

Aug 01, 2023

Is there anything you’d like to stop doing?

For some people it’s exercise.

Unfortunately, a 2021 study out of Europe suggests that exercise is a lot like brushing your teeth. If you don’t do it regularly, bad things can happen. 

Tibor Hortobágyi and his colleagues randomized 67 people with Parkinson’s disease to one of three groups: exercise, exercise plus maintenance, or control.

The exercise group completed a 3-week long, 15-session, high intensity exercise program. The exercise plus maintenance group did the same 15-session program and then continued exercising 3 times per week for 6 years. The control group performed neither the initial exercise program nor maintenance.

Immediately after the initial program, motor performance1 improved in both exercise groups. In the group that kept exercising, improvements were sustained for 6 years, and medication use remained significantly lower than in the other two groups2. In the group that stopped exercising, motor performance returned to baseline within 12 months and stayed there for the next 5 years. In the control group, motor performance got worse with time. 

I wish I had better news for those who would rather stop exercising, especially those with Parkinson’s disease. But the upshot is this:

Exercise works when you do, and it works even better when you don’t quit. 

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Additional Resources and Footnotes

1 Motor performance was assessed using Motor Experiences of Daily Living. Exercise improved patients’ scores by approximate 7 points; a 3.1 point change is clinically meaningful.

2In the exercise plus maintenance group, L-dopa equivalent dose remained at approximately 800 mg/day for 6 years. In the other two groups, it rose from 800 mg/day to approximately 1,400 mg/day. 

Click here to read the original article. It’s free on PubMed Central.

Hortobágyi T, Sipos D, Borbély G, Áfra G, Reichardt-Varga E, Sántha G, Nieboer W, Tamási K, Tollár J. Detraining Slows and Maintenance Training Over 6 Years Halts Parkinsonian Symptoms-Progression.  Front Neurol. 2021 Nov 19;12:737726. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2021.737726. eCollection 2021. PMID: 34867721 Free PMC article.

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