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Playing table tennis can slow Parkinson’s disease because it sharpens patients’ reflexes

Playing table tennis can “slow Parkinson’s disease because it sharpens patients’ reflexes and stimulates their brains”

  • Five hours of playing time per week reduced vibration, stiffness of the limbs and balance
  • Scientists say that sport can be used as a cheap and relatively safe physical therapy
  • Parkinson’s disease lives on more than one million in the US and 145,000 people in the UK

Table tennis can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, research suggests.

Five hours of playing time per week reduced tremors, stiffness of limbs, slowness of movement and balance for at least six months.

Parkinson’s patients have a dopamine deficiency – a neurochemical key to motor function and memory – that stimulates exercise to produce the brain.

Table tennis sharpens reflexes, stimulates the brain and improves hand-eye coordination, according to scientists from Fukuoka University in Japan.

They say the sport can be used as an inexpensive and relatively safe physical therapy for Parkinson’s, the second most common neurological disorder – behind Alzheimer’s disease.

Five hours a week table tennis can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, a study found

Five hours a week table tennis can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, a study found

People with Parkinson’s do not have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it are dead. This leads to movement problems.

It destroys the lives of more than one million patients in the US and 145,000 people in the UK.

Muhammad Ali died in 2016 after a long battle with the disease and famous patients are Michael J Fox and Billy Connolly.

The last study involved 12 people with an average age of 73 with mild to moderate Parkinson’s who lived with the disease for an average of seven years.

Participants were tested at the start of the study to see what symptoms they had and how severe the symptoms were.

They then played table tennis once a week for six months, with each session lasting five hours.

Parkinson's lives are more than a million patients in the US and 145,000 people in the UK. Muhammad Ali died in 2016 after a long battle with the disease

Parkinson's lives are more than a million patients in the US and 145,000 people in the UK. Muhammad Ali died in 2016 after a long battle with the disease

Parkinson’s lives are more than a million patients in the US and 145,000 people in the UK. Muhammad Ali died in 2016 after a long battle with the disease

WHAT ARE PARKINSONS? THE INCREDIBLE DISEASE THAT KILLS BOXER MUHAMMAD ALI

Parkinson’s disease affects more than one in 500 people and around 145,000 people in the UK live with the condition.

Figures also suggest that one million Americans also suffer.

It causes muscle stiffness, slow motion, tremors, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, a reduced quality of life and can lead to severe disabilities.

It is a progressive neurological disorder that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

It is known that people suffering from dopamine have decreased because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way to stop the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.

The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.

Well-known patients are Michael J Fox and Billy Connolly.

Patients performed stretching exercises and were then coached by an experienced player from the sports sciences department of the university.

Parkinson’s symptoms were reassessed after three months and at the end of the study.

The study found that participants experienced significant improvements in speech, handwriting, dressing, getting up and walking both at three months and at six months.

For example, it took participants on average two or more attempts to get out of bed at the start of the study compared to just one attempt at the end of the study.

Volunteers also experienced significant improvements in facial expression, posture, rigidity, slow motion, and hand shake.

For example, for neck muscle rigidity, researchers assessed symptoms and scored each participant on a scale from zero to four.

The average score for all participants was three when they first started, compared to an average score of two at the end of the study.

Study author Dr. Ken-ichi Onoue of Fukuoka University in Japan said: ‘Ping-pong is a form of aerobic exercise that has been shown to improve the general hand population, improve hand-eye coordination, sharpen reflexes and stimulate the brain.

“We wanted to investigate whether people with Parkinson’s disease would see similar benefits that could in turn alleviate some of their symptoms.

“Although this research is small, the results are encouraging because they show that table tennis, a relatively inexpensive form of therapy, can improve some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“A much larger study is now planned to confirm these findings.”

The research will be presented at the 72nd annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Toronto, Canada from April 25 to May 1.

The main limitation of the study was that the participants were not compared to a control group of people with Parkinson’s disease who did not play table tennis. Another was that a single specialist assessed the patients.

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