At the 4th World Parkinson Congress held in Portland, Oregon September 20-23, 2016, a group of researchers affiliated with InMotion presented a poster entitled “Early Results on Preservation of Motor Performance in a Community-Based Exercise Program”. The poster text detailed the results of a study of 28 volunteers with Parkinson’s disease attending physical activity programs (dance, exercise, sports, tai chi, yoga) at InMotion. Each person was individually assessed on the basis of a number of tests of physical performance at the beginning of their attendance at InMotion, and after 6 months of participation.
The averaged results of all 28 participants showed that their performance on 11 assessment tests uniformly improved to some degree over the 6-month interval. On four of the 11 tests, the results were statistically “significant”, meaning that there are less than 1 in 20 odds that the improvement occurred by chance alone. For the other tests, one could only conclude that there was a trend toward improvement.
The authors of the study were Dr. David Riley, Chair of Medical Education at InMotion, Benjamin Rossi, Program Director at InMotion, and Dr. Elizabeth Stiles, a member of the Program Committee who helped with the design of the study and conducted the statistical analysis. They urged caution regarding the interpretation of the results. Dr. Riley said, “there are a number of limitations to the kinds of conclusions that can be drawn from data such as we collected. We made no attempt to influence or control other important factors, such as medications or outside activity levels.” Thus, the authors stated, the data do not prove that attendance at InMotion was responsible for the improvement in the participants. They also emphasized that 6 months is a relatively short interval over which to measure the influence of any factor on the course of Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, the authors concluded in their poster text that the data suggest that attending physical activity classes “may be contributing to stabilization of the clinical course” of the participants, which is important to people with a progressive disorder such as Parkinson’s disease. The results were also “consistent with a large body of literature documenting the value of physical activity” for persons with the disease.
Posters are an important means of communication among researchers and other interested persons from around the world at meetings such as the World Parkinson Congress, which is currently being held every 3 years. The posters are mounted on viewing boards for the perusal of attendees, of which there were 4,500 at this particular meeting, where more than 2,000 posters remained on view for all 3 days. During a 2-hour assigned time slot, poster authors stand by the posters and field questions from interested passers-by, gather helpful criticism on how the study could be improved, and make important connections with investigators from elsewhere who might become collaborators in the future. Posters can also serve a secondary purpose as a means for a fledgling organization such as InMotion to make its presence known among the worldwide community of people interested in Parkinson’s disease.
Stop in and view the poster. It is on display in the Education Resource Center at InMotion. The authors hope to expand their observations in terms of the number of participants and the duration of the study, as well as correlating the degree of improvement with the number and type of classes attended, in order to produce more meaningful results in the future.