Walking at a slow speed on treadmills improves the mobility and gait of Parkinson's sufferers according to new research presented at the 2011 conference of the American Society of Neurology.

Over the years there has been much debate as to the effectiveness of low intensity vs. high intensity exercise and its impact on Parkinson's patients.

"Contrary to evidence suggesting that high-intensity exercise is the most effective, our results suggest that a combination of low-intensity training and stretching-resistance training may achieve the greatest improvements for people with Parkinson's disease," stated Lisa M. Shulman, MD, of the University of Maryland, in a news release. "These results have important implications for how we manage Parkinson's disease, since low-intensity exercise can be done by most people with Parkinson's, and our patients frequently ask what type of exercise they should be doing."

The study , conducted at the Baltimore VA Medical Center, divided Parkinson's patients into three groups. Group One performed high intensity treadmill walking for a period of 30 minutes,Group Two walked on the treadmill at slower speeds for 50 minutes and Group Three participated in weight training and stretching exercises. Study participants exercised three times a week over a three month duration.

Group Two garnered the most benefit in terms of gait and mobility improvement.

According to the National Parkinson Foundation Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's, affecting about one million people in the United States and an estimated four million worldwide. The prevalence of the disease is expected to increase substantially in the next 20 years due to the aging of the population in the U.S., Europe and globally, as well as an increase in the age-related incidence of the disease. The economic burden of Parkinson's disease is estimated to be $6 billion annually in the U.S.