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NMU 258 – Endurance Exercise May Reduce Risk of Parkinson’s disease via Irisin Release from Muscles

Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No.258 (September 15, 2022)

with Dr. James Meschino

Research Topic: Endurance Exercise May Reduce Risk of Parkinson’s disease via Irisin Release from Muscles

Source: Neuroscience News (September 12, 2022)


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and has an annual incidence rate of approximately 1 in 600 people aged 65 years or older. The cause of PD is currently unknown but is thought to be a consequence of genetic and environmental influences. Certain environmental factors (pesticides, dairy products, and traumatic brain injury) have been linked to increased risk of developing PD, whereas others have been linked to decreased risk (smoking, caffeine, urate, and physical activity). Regarding exercise, a number of studies have shown that people who engage in regular exercise appear to have decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease as they age. But a study reviewed in Neuroscience News in September 2022 has shed light on a key mechanism through which endurance exercise (aerobic exercise) appears to be an important way to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

In short, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have shown that a hormone secreted into the blood during endurance, or aerobic, exercise reduces levels of a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease and halts movement problems in mice. The protein released from muscles during aerobic exercise is called irisin. Irisin can cross the blood-brain barrier and block important steps linked to Parkinson’s disease. The researchers showed that mice that are genetically engineered to be at high risk for Parkinson’s disease development are spared the development of Parkinson’s disease when irisin protein is injected into the area of the mouse brain where Parkinson’s disease develops. This research helps to explain why people who perform aerobic exercise are less prone to Parkinson’s disease development. It also helps to explain one of the ways that exercise helps to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in people who are afflicted.

Biotechnology research companies are busy trying to make an irisin drug that can enter the body and make its way to the brain, or find a way to deliver irisin directly to the human brain. This intervention may reduce the risk of developing PD or become another aspect of PD treatment. But the science and technology to do this are still quite a way down the road. In the meantime, one way to help to prevent Parkinson’s disease (as well as to improve cardiovascular fitness and burn fat) is to perform aerobic exercise regularly (4-7 times per week). This releases irisin into the bloodstream, which can cross into the brain and prevent the clumping together of a protein called alpha-synuclein. The clumping of alpha-synuclein kills dopamine-producing nerve cells, which causes many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Irisin is also shown to speed up the breakdown of synuclein so that it doesn’t accumulate in the brain and clump together. Anyway you look at it, including aerobic exercise in your wellness, longevity, and healthy life expectancy game plan is good preventive medicine, and this appears to also include reducing your risk of Parkinson’s disease as you get older.

I have included the references for this information in the text below.


1. Main Reference: Exercise hormone halts Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Neuroscience News. September 12, 2022.

2. Crotty G.F. Chasing protection in Parkinson’s disease: Does exercise reduce risk and progression. Front Aging Neurosci. 2020; 12: 186


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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