Media Contacts

Julie Kiefer

Associate Director, Science Communications, University of Utah Health
Email: julie.kiefer@hsc.utah.edu

Dec 01, 2021 8:00 AM

To learn more and be screened for enrollment please call 801-587-3181 or email Geneviève “G” Olivier, PT, DPT, PhD  G.Olivier@utah.edu or Erin Suttman, Erin.Suttman@utah.edu.

University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare are taking part in an international study to help determine if high intensity exercise can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Medications help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but doctors have yet to find a way to stop it from getting worse. Exercise has shown promise, and doctors are hoping this North American study will give them the data to show it works.

“This is the largest study to date of a non-pharmacologic intervention in Parkinson’s disease,” says Lee Dibble, Ph.D., professor of physical therapy and athletic training at U of U Health and principal investigator of the Utah based sites. “We are excited to work to improve patients’ quality of life while investigating if aerobic exercise slows the rate of Parkinson’s disease progression, something no drug has been shown to do.”

Researchers are looking for patients who are 40 to 80 years old and in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. They will be randomly selected to do moderate or high intensity treadmill workouts over the course of 18 months.

This is the first time a study of moderate and high intensity workouts is being studied across a large number of sites in the U.S. and Canada. Researchers will study the impact these types of exercise have on the brain, and look for reduced inflammation in the body which is known to be higher in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“Endurance exercise programs are an important part of our patients’ treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” says Kathleen McKee, MD, neurologist and study lead at Intermountain Healthcare. “If we can prove certain forms of exercise slow down disease progression, it would be a major breakthrough in treating our patients.”

Parkinson’s disease is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease behind Alzheimer’s. More than one million people have Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. and people are newly diagnosed each year.

For more information about the study, visit https://www.sparx3pd.com.

Parkinson's disease Neuroscience