More Reasons to Keep Running

David Yon, September 26, 2022

Increasing evidence supports a link between vigorous physical activity and a healthier brain, with regular exercise helping to delay brain aging and, perhaps, reduce the impact of neurodegeneration on people. But the headline in the daily publication Parkinson’s News Today caught my attention (maybe because I recently reread the book Flowers for Algernon). It read: “Mice Show Gain From Exercise, Cholesterol Medication.”

The report began as follows: “Regular treadmill exercise significantly reduced the aggregation and spread of alpha-synuclein in the brain – a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease – prevented neurodegeneration, and lessened motor deficits in a mouse model of Parkinson’s ….

The Parkinson’s Foundation describes Parkinson’s Disease as a “neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.”  The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences adds that “neurodegenerative diseases occur when nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system lose function over time and ultimately die. Although certain treatments may help relieve some of the physical or mental symptoms associated with neurodegenerative diseases, slowing their progression is not currently possible, and no cures exist.”

It is one of a number of neurodegenerative diseases associated with the abnormal, toxic accumulation and spread of aggregates of a protein called alpha-synuclein, commonly referred to as “bad protein,” in the brain and spinal cord.

As September gives way to October, I am finishing my 10th year of post diagnosis living with Parkinson’s.  It is certain the disease started its dirty work long before then. Regardless, most people (certainly I include myself in this group) want to know what is the worst thing that might happen, the most likely thing to happen and the best (how do I make it curable) thing possible.

Two of my early takeaways: (1) When you see one person with Parkinson’s, you have seen one person with Parkinson’s. The next case may follow the same pattern, the next maybe worse and the final one might be better, (2) While it is not curable, it is important to combine the best medicines with exercise and rest to help manage the disease and live the best quality of life.

So, when I saw the headline for the study referenced above  – Treadmill Exercise Reduces α-Synuclein Spreading via PPARα – I got pretty excited. As I read the study, the results supported a conclusion that regular treadmill exercise significantly reduced the aggregation and spread of alpha-synuclein in the brains of mice, prevented neurodegeneration, and lessened motor deficit.

The researchers in the study analyzed mice with alpha-synuclein aggregation due to injections given them at two months old. At four months the mice began exercising on the treadmill six days a week for two months. Sessions lasted 30 minutes and the pace gradually increased over the two months. That is a fraction of how much I run.

The mice in the training group showed a “significantly reduced loss of dopaminergic, or dopamine-producing, neurons, and of dopamine and its byproducts.”  “Treadmill training was also associated with a nearly complete reversal of motor deficits in these animals, further supporting its ability to reduce both molecular hallmarks of the disease and its clinical symptoms.”

I wasn’t the only person who got excited by these results. The authors of the paper wrote: “until now, no effective therapy has been available to prevent alpha-synuclein spreading in the human brain…Our hope is that we can use this as a jumping off point.”

The report went on to say: “These benefits were found to be associated with the activation of a receptor protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha) in the brain. The receptor is known to activate genes that promote growth, maturation, and survival of dopaminergic neurons, which are progressively lost in Parkinson’s disease.

Certainly no one expects neurodegenerative diseases to be cured by working on a treadmill. Researchers hope a better understanding of what the treadmill exercises are doing can lead to treadmill associated drugs that can inhibit alpha-synuclein-associated-damage, protect the brain, and stop the growth of dementia associated with Parkinson’s and Lewy body disease. 

Personally, it confirms a strategy of aggressively using exercise to fight the progression of Parkinson’s Disease in my body. It offers a different kind of fight though – one where Parky can be pushed back rather than just slowed down.

Not everyone with Parkinson’s can run on a treadmill. And because of the challenges we all face due to Parky we need to find the safest ways possible to exercise. But almost everyone can use exercise in a way that improves their lives.  I hope to continue running, regardless of how slow. So Parky, let’s go for a run and see who wears out first.


Sports Performance and Preventative Care

You are cordially invited to attend a presentation by Dr. Brian Burnett entitled "Sports Performance and Preventative Care for Runners." Dr. Burnett is a local chiropractic physician and the owner of Tallahassee Primary Spine Care. He is a former FSU athlete who threw...

GWTC Legacies – Remembering

Welcome to the Rex Cleveland Memorial Page. In August 2023, this memorial site was created to replace the Rex Cleveland Magic! Mile, which originated in 2016 in memory of Rex. While initially established to remember Rex Cleveland and the four runners the club lost in...

Turkey Trot Training Group Begins September 25

GWTC Turkey Trot Training Group Organizer or main contact: Ashlee Blake How to contact: Facebook (Gulf Winds Track Group Runs) or email Ashlee Blake, Start Date:  September 25, 2023 Duration:  We will meet as a group each Monday through November...

Safety in Strides – A Runner’s Workshop

Join us for the next GWTC Lecture which will focus on safety for runners.  What: “Safety in Strides – A Runner’s Workshop” Presenters: Leon County Deputy Chris Smith & Shannon C. Smith  Where:  Ology Brewing Company - Northside, 2910 Kerry Forest Parkway   When:...

Tuesday Morning Intervals Moving to Wednesday

The 6:30 a.m. intervals at the Maclay School Track have been moved from Tuesday mornings to Wednesday mornings.  The move is to avoid conflict with the morning practices on the track of the Maclay School Cross Country Teams.   FEATURES

Tally Trash Challenge 2023

GWTC has partnered with Sustainable Tallahassee on the 2023 Tally Trash Challenge that will take place September 1 - 17. We all know that runners like a challenge, so let's rise to it and see how much trash we can pick up.  There are prizes to be earned and a post...

Timers Needed

GWTC is using a new timing program and recruiting interested Club members to learn the system. The new program, RaceDay, is processed through a dashboard and is much more intuitive than the timing program previously used by GWTC. Although easier to use, RaceDay still...

Beginning Running Group Registration Open

The 2023 Beginning Running Group is open for registration.  Training begins on September 20 and runs through November 15, 2023. For additional information and/or to register, click here.   FlyerFEATURES