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Exercise and PD: Working it Out

In mid-June, some 40 invited scientists gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for an historic event in Parkinsonís disease research: the first-ever academic seminar on the subject of exercise and Parkinsonís disease (PD). This marked a major step that the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) is taking in its new initiative on quality of life for people living with Parkinsonís (see article on this page).

Led by Dr. Michael Zigmond, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, and sponsored by PDF, the group toiled over two days to explore the state of science of exercise as therapy and potential neuroprotection in Parkinsonís. Impressive minds came together to identify some of the methodological issues that will need to be resolved before embarking on a national research study to pin down the impact of exercise on PD.

Presentations included a review of the relationship between exercise and health by Dr. Nancy Williams, an exercise physiologist from Pennsylvania State University; explorations of the literature on animal and human interventions by Dr. Zigmond and Dr. Margaret Schenkman, a professor and director of the physical therapy Program at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Science Center; and a marathon after-dinner procession of 11 exercise-research case studies spanning the research spectrum from mice to humans.

In closing the session, Dr. Zigmond invited participants to join task groups focusing on specific research questions, such as the definition of ďoutcome measuresĒ and the especially thorny issue of how one designs a control group in a population where most people indulge in various degrees of exercise of one kind or another. PDF plans to continue its collaboration with Dr. Zigmond and the task groups to evaluate the importance of exercise to people living with Parkinsonís disease.