Scientists Weigh In On Exercise in ALS

Exercise, routine practice for ALS? At least some forms of exercise are safe for people with ALS according to a new study [Courtesy of]

At least some forms of exercise are safe for people with ALS according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Nicholas Maragakis. The clinical trial compared stationary cycling and weightlifting to “range of motion” stretching, the current standard of care. No difference in the rate of disease progression was detected between the three groups. A total of 60 people with ALS participated in the randomized, 6-month study.

The study is one of growing number of clinical trials investigating the potential benefits of exercise for people with neurodegenerative disease (for example, see Schenkman et al., 2017; Shulman et al., 2013). The trials stem in part, from previous studies that suggest that the production of neuroprotective substances including BDNF is induced by at least some forms of exercise – at least in healthy people (Zoladz et al., 2008; Rasmussen et al., 2009).

The results may help neurologists develop personalized exercise routines for people with ALS to help manage their disease. The study is published online on November 30 in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration.


Clawson LL, Cudkowicz M, Krivickas L, Brooks BR, Sanjak M, Allred P, Atassi N, Swartz A, Steinhorn G, Uchil A, Riley KM, Yu H, Schoenfeld DA, Maragakis NJ; NEALS Consortium. Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2017 Nov 30:1-9. A randomized controlled trial of resistance and endurance exercise in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2017 Nov 30:1-9.

Rasmussen P, Brassard P, Adser H, Pedersen MV, Leick L, Hart E, Secher NH, Pedersen BK, Pilegaard H. Evidence for a release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor from the brain during exercise. Exp Physiol. 2009 Oct;94(10):1062-9. [PubMed].

Zoladz JA, Pilc A, Majerczak J, Grandys M, Zapart-Bukowska J, Duda K. Endurance training increases plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor concentration in young healthy men. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2008;59(7):119–32. [PubMed].

Further Reading

Camandola S, Mattson MP. Brain metabolism in health, aging, and neurodegeneration. EMBO J. 2017 Jun 1;36(11):1474-1492. [PubMed].

Additional Resources

Maragakis, NJ. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Resistance and Endurance Exercise in ALS. Northeast ALS Consortium. Presented online 3 April 2018.

For people with ALS and their families: To learn more about this study, check out this article on the ALS Association website.

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