Strength deficits in persons with Parkinson's disease (PD) have been identified as a contributor to bradykinesia. However, there is little research that examines the effect of resistance training on muscle size, muscle force production, and mobility in persons with PD. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine, in persons with PD, the changes in quadriceps muscle volume, muscle force production, and mobility as a result of a 12-week high-force eccentric resistance training program and to compare the effects to a standard-care control. Nineteen individuals with idiopathic PD were recruited and consented to participate. Matched assignment for age and disease severity resulted in 10 participants in the eccentric group and 9 participants in the control group. All participants were tested prior to and following a 12-week intervention period with testing and training conducted at standardized times in their medication cycle. The eccentric group performed high-force quadriceps contractions on an eccentric ergometer 3 days a week for 12 weeks. The standard-care group exercise program encompassed standard exercise management of PD. The outcome variables were quadriceps muscle volume, muscle force, and mobility measures (6-minute walk, stair ascent/descent time). Each outcome variable was tested using separate one-way analyses of covariance on the difference scores. Muscle volume, muscle force, and functional status improvements occurred in persons with PD as a result of high-force eccentric resistance training. The eccentric group demonstrated significantly greater difference scores for muscle structure, stair descent, and 6-minute walk (P < 0.05). Magnitude of effect size estimators for the eccentric group consistently exceeded those in the standard-care group for all variables. To our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial to investigate and demonstrate the effects of eccentric resistance training on muscle hypertrophy, strength, and mobility in persons with PD. Additional research is needed to determine the anatomical and neurological mechanisms of the observed strength gains and mobility improvements.
(c) 2006 Movement Disorder Society.