Research reveals exercise slows progression of Parkinson's - WSMV News 4

Research reveals exercise slows progression of Parkinson's

Posted: Updated: May 06, 2016 04:22 PM

New research reveals how exercise of any kind can dramatically improve the slowness, stiffness and balance issues associated with Parkinson’s disease.

When it comes to exercise, Steve Cronin of Franklin is the poster child of Parkinson’s patients.

The 28-year retired Army veteran works out at home, does cardio at the gym and shares his sweet moves with others twice a week in Dance for Parkinson’s classes.

"There's a social aspect,” Cronin said. “There's a physical – strength, stability, stamina, balance. The music and hand movements helps you with your brain to memorize what the order of things are."

Cronin knows firsthand what a major national study is confirming: exercise of any kind – whether dance, cycling, yoga or the latest hot trend in group classes for Parkinson’s patients called Rock Steady Boxing – slows the progression of Parkinson’s.

The National Parkinson’s Disease Registry study is following 4,000 Parkinson’s patients over time.

"The group of patients that have regular exercise, nothing specific about what kind, seem to have slower disease progression, more stable cognitive functions, less memory loss over time," said Dr. Heather Koons, assistant professor of neurology in the Movement Disorder division at Vanderbilt.

"We've got this ball park number: two and a half hours of exercise per week, seems to make a big difference," added Kelly Arney, outreach coordinator for the National Parkinson’s Foundation Center for Excellence at Vanderbilt. "Even people that are having balance issues, there's something about the music, there's something about the movement. And so some people that have balance issues in walking, can actually get up and dance."

Arney said her job is to help Middle Tennessee Parkinson’s patients understand their diagnosis, then lead them to the programs and support available – whether or not they’re a patient at Vanderbilt. She said there’s something especially powerful about the combination of music and movement for Parkinson’s patients.

"Music can make people feel happy. And when we feel happy, we increase our dopamine production, which is something what someone with Parkinson's is not producing enough of," Arney explained.

As for Cronin, the emotional connection and commitment to group classes such as Dance for Parkinson’s keep him coming back.

"It's just fun," Cronin said.

For information on Dance for Parkinson’s, click here or call 615-862-8439.

To reach Arney, email

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