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Running may lower risk of Parkinson’s disease

Alexis Brudnicki running past her workplace, Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Alexis Brudnicki running past her workplace, Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Your morning run commute may be lowering your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease late in life.

The benefits late in life of being a runner keep piling up. A new, extensive study of the Swedish National March Cohort found that a medium amount to daily physical activity lowers the risk of developing Parkinson’s later in life, though the results varied between men and women.

The study followed 43,368 individuals for an average of 12.6 years. At the beginning of the study, in October 1997, none of the individuals had Parkinson’s. They were tracked until they developed the disease, died, emigrated from Sweden or until the study ended on Dec. 31, 2010. By the end, 286 had developed Parkinson’s. Analyzing the daily activity levels, the researchers, found that those who had medium levels of physical activity — be in biking, walking or running to work, or more organized physical activity — had a lower chance of developing the disease, though the effect was notably more pronounced in men.

The research was also important because it looked not only at exercise, but all forms of physical activity.

“Another major strength of this study is that we considered the entire spectrum of daily energy output, rather than purely focusing on dedicated exercising. Further, we conducted a rich set of sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our findings,” said Karin Wirdefeldt, who headed the study, in a press release.


Few previous studies had been done on the topic of how exercise affects the risk of Parkinson’s, and of those few most had been done on animals in controlled environments. This was the largest piece of research done on the topic.

The research was published in the Oxford University Press’s journal Brain.