By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is growing evidence that shows getting regular exercise can help control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and even prevent it. The number of people being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease has been increasing and it’s not known exactly why.

While it can often be controlled with medications, scientists say there’s now a sizable body of evidence that shows the one thing that works best is getting regular exercise.

Exercise is good for everybody. Now new research says there’s more proof it might also help prevent Parkinson’s disease.

The study looked at data of more than half a million adults over a 12-year period.

Researchers found men who did any physical activity reduced their risk of Parkinson’s and the more activity they did, the more their risk lowered.

“The risk of developing Parkinson’s was essentially twenty-one percent less if you exercise than if you didn’t,” Dr. Benjamin Walter said.

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Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination.

It’s caused by lack of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement and emotional response.

Exercises appears to prompt the brain to use dopamine more efficiently.

Research shows working out regularly can both reduce the risk of Parkinson’s or reduce the severity of symptoms.

“If you have early Parkinson’s, this is something that there’s lots of data from supported by this and other studies that show that exercising improves the outcome; improves, probably the progression of the disease, improves the progression of symptoms and disability,” Dr. Walter said.

The risk of developing Parkinson’s disease increases with age and it is much more common among men than women.

Stephanie Stahl