In calling for sharp hand-eye coordination, alertness and quick reflexes, pingpong (or table tennis to its more serious practitioners) has come to be seen as a useful therapy for a number of ailments, in particular Alzheimer’s, dementia and those associated with the brain. Researchers in Japan have turned their eye to its potential to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, with a six-month preliminary study pointing to significant improvements in the participant’s ability to carry out a variety of everyday tasks.
The study led by scientists at Japan’s Fukuoka University involved 12 subjects with an average age of 73, all with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease diagnosed an average of seven years prior. At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed the patient’s symptoms to gauge their severity, before tasking each of them with a weekly pingpong session for five hours at a time.
These involved stretching sessions followed by pingpong exercises with an experienced player. These sessions were purposely designed for Parkinson’s patients by the university’s sports science department, with the subject’s symptoms assessed after three months of therapy and then again at six months.