Center for Exercise Medicine
The UAB Center for Exercise Medicine is focused on improving the health and well-being of children and adults of all ages through interdisciplinary research, the training of future leaders in science and healthcare, and community education based on clinical research findings. The UCEM interdisciplinary team brings together more than 80 investigators, 19 departments, and 8 schools for a multi-disciplinary approach. UAB is among the first of major academic medical centers to establish such a center. Among its activities, the Center sponsors an annual symposium.
High-intensity strength training shows benefit for Parkinson's patientsWritten by Bob Shepard
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that high-intensity strength training produced significant improvements in quality of life, mood and motor function in older patients with Parkinson’s disease. The findings were published Jan. 9 online in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Fifteen 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.
“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,” said Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology and lead author of the study. “We also saw improvement in cognition, mood and sense of well-being.”
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating, neurodegenerative disease that dramatically affects mobility function and quality of life. Patients often experience weakness, low muscle power and fatigue.
Bamman, who heads the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine, devised a strenuous exercise regimen for the participants. Subjects performed 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.
“We pushed these patients throughout the exercise period,” said Neil Kelly, M.A., a graduate student trainee and first author of the study. “We used a heart rate monitor to measure exercise intensity — keeping the heart rate high through the entire 40-minute session.”
Bamman says 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.
“We found favorable changes in skeletal muscle at the cellular and subcellular levels that are associated with improvements in motor function and physical capacity,” Bamman said.