Lead author Marcas Bamman, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said 15 subjects with moderate Parkinson's underwent 16 weeks of high-intensity resistance training combined with interval training designed to simultaneously challenge strength, power, endurance, balance and mobility function.
Before and after the 16 weeks, the subjects were compared to age-matched controls who did not have Parkinson's and did not undergo the exercise regimen.
Bamman devised a strenuous exercise regimen for the participants -- three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of a variety of strength training exercises, such as leg or overhead presses, with a one-minute interval between sets for high-repetition, bodyweight exercises, such as lunges or pushups.
This was the first study of its kind to look at the biology of the muscles. Biopsies of muscle tissue were collected before and after the 16 weeks, the researchers said.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found the participants showed significant improvement of six points on average on a measure called the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale and demonstrated improvements in other areas such as strength and balance.
"We saw improvements in strength, muscle size and power, which we expected after rigorous weight training; but we also saw improvement in balance and muscle control," Bamman said in a statement. "We also saw improvement in cognition, mood and sense of well-being."