Intense exercise could 'increase risk of motor neurone disease'

11 June 2021, 09:37

Scientists have found that strenuous activity could increase risk of MND
Scientists have found that strenuous activity could increase risk of MND. Picture: PA

By Emma Clarke

Scientists say regular and strenuous exercise increases the risk of motor neurone disease in those who are genetically vulnerable.

In the study carried out by a team at the University of Sheffield, it was outlined that not only are ALS risk genes activated in response to exercise, but that those with the most common mutation linked to motor neurone disease develop it at an earlier stage if they exercise rigorously.

Strenuous and regular exercise was defined in the report as 15-30 minutes or greater, over more than 2-3 days per week.

While the team said people should not stop exercising, they hope their findings will result in regular screenings of people at higher risk.

The disease, which affects around one in 300 people, impacts the brain and the nerves.

Motor neurones that carry messages from the brain to the muscle fail and weaken over time, leading to difficulties with speech, breathing and movement.

There is currently no cure for motor neurone disease, but there have been significant advancements in treatments and technologies in recent years.

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One of the researchers, Dr Jonathan Cooper-Knock, said: "We have conclusively said exercise is a risk factor for motor neurone disease.

"The numbers of high profile athletes affected with MND is not a coincidence."

He continued: "We don't know who is at risk and we wouldn't go as far as advising who should and shouldn't exercise.

"If everyone stopped exercising that would do more harm than good."