Parkinson disease (PD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that presents clinical symptoms that include the loss of motor and non-motor skills.1 Although the sole cause of this condition remains unknown, certain risk factors for PD have been identified, such as heredity, drugs, and environmental toxins.2

PD progresses gradually over time as symptoms continue to worsen until there is eventually a severe loss of motor and non-motor function. The loss of physical activity that results during disease progression has a profound impact on patients’ lives, as physical activity provides numerable benefits to health and wellness.3

Research has also shown that patients with PD who are able to engage in physical activity are potentially able to improve the motor and non-motor symptoms associated with the disease. Specifically, physical activity has been found to improve mobility, postural control, and gait.

For patients with PD, aerobic exercises have been observed to improve walking ability and balance,4 whereas treadmill exercises, stretching, and resistance exercises can also produce improved motor symptoms.5

Non-motor symptoms benefit from physical activity as well. Research suggests that regular multimodal physical exercises can reduce sleep disturbances,6 with the potential for improvement in cognition, which in turn can ameliorate depression and fatigue.4

Physical activity has also been found to potentially benefit patients with PD, as it reduces pain by activating pain inhibitor pathways and contributes to neurorestoration and neuroplasticity.5

The possibility of neuroprotection may account for the reduced risk of incidence of PD in persons who engage regularly in physical activity.4 Living a sedentary life can increase the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and PD.3

The impact of physical activity on the progression of PD has been assessed by researchers both based on the type of exercise and the consistency. In some studies, the effects of physical activity were assessed based on specific exercises, whereas in others, the results were recorded based on the regularity of the physical activity.

Ultimately, although patients with PD are more likely to be sedentary due to the motor symptoms associated with the disease, prescribing appropriate exercises and supporting consistent adherence to the activities can help to improve the condition and overall quality of life for the patient.7

  1. van Nimwegen M, Speelman AD, Smulders K, Overeem S, Borm GF, Backx FJ, et al. Design and baseline characteristics of the ParkFit study, a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of a multifaceted behavioral program to increase physical activity in Parkinson patients. BMC neurology. 2010 ;10(1):70.
  2. Emamzadeh FN, Surguchov A. Parkinson's Disease: Biomarkers, Treatment, and Risk Factors. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:612. Published 2018 Aug 30. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00612.
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2018.
  4. Bhalsing, K. S., Abbas, M. M., & Tan, L. Role of Physical Activity in Parkinson's Disease. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology 2018;, 21(4):242–249. doi: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_169_18.
  5. Fayyaz M, Jaffery SS, Anwer F, Zil-E-Ali A, Anjum I. The Effect of Physical Activity in Parkinson's Disease: A Mini-Review. Cureus. 2018;10(7):e2995. Published 2018 Jul 18. doi:10.7759/cureus.2995.
  6. Nascimento, C. M., Ayan, C., Cancela, J. M., Gobbi, L. T., Gobbi, S., & Stella, F. Effect of a multimodal exercise program on sleep disturbances and instrumental activities of daily living performance on Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease patients. Geriatrics & Gerontology International 2014;, 14(2): 259–266. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12082.
  7. David, F. J., Robichaud, J. A., Leurgans, S. E., Poon, C., Kohrt, W. M., Goldman, J.G et al. Exercise improves cognition in Parkinson's disease: The PRET-PD randomized, clinical trial. Movement disorders: Official Journal of the Movement Disorder Society 2015;, 30(12): 1657–1663. doi: 10.1002/mds.26291.