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High(er) intensity Exercise Benefits!

Overview: A recent pilot study conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine

suggests that high-intensity exercise may have the potential to not only slow down

but also reverse the neurodegeneration associated with Parkinson disease. While

previous research has shown that various forms of exercise can improve Parkinson

symptoms, this study provides evidence that intense aerobic exercise can impact

brain health at the neuronal level.

Key Findings:

  • The study involved 10 patients.

  • High-intensity aerobic exercise was

the focus. (80% max HR)

NOTE: most research supports 60-85% of max HR for neuroprotective benefits of exercise

  • The exercise regimen preserved dopamine-producing neurons, which are particularly vulnerable in Parkinson’s patients.

  • After six months of exercise, these neurons actually became healthier and produced stronger dopamine signals.


  • Existing medications for Parkinson’s provide symptomatic relief but do not alter the disease course.

  • Exercise seems to go beyond symptom management and protects the brain at the neuronal level.

  • This study is the first to use imaging to confirm that intense exercise can modify the brain biology

Background on Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by misfolded alpha-synuclein protein accumulation in neurons. The disease primarily affects dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain. By the

when motor symptoms appear, patients have often lost over half of their dopamine-producing neurons. Current medications, like levodopa, alleviate symptoms but do not halt neurodegeneration.


  • High-intensity exercise shows promise as a brain-protective strategy

for Parkinson’s patients.

  • While there is no cure for the disease, this study highlights the potential benefits of incorporating intense exercise into treatment plans.

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