Physical activity is reduced in early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and it appears that the decline is not solely due to aging, a small new study has found.

Thirty older adult participants diagnosed with early Parkinson’s wore commercially available activity monitors to gauge their activity levels for 14 days. When compared with their healthy peers, they took fewer steps, engaged in less moderate-to-vigorous activity, and spent more time being sedentary. 

The study results suggest that factors other than age are influencing early symptoms of decline, wrote the University of Washington, Seattle, researchers.

Physical inactivity, for instance, is known to have an effect on symptoms of Parkinson’s, worsening motor skills as well as nonmotor symptoms, such as insomnia and constipation. But study participants showed interest and compliance in wearing their activity monitors (in this case a version of Fitbit), indicating that these devices may be used as motivation to engage in physical activity, the authors wrote.

The findings were published online in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders.