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The Effects of Physical Activity in Parkinsonís Disease: A Review

A meta-analysis of 106 research studies published over nearly 25 years is helping researchers to understand how physical activity may benefit people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Results of this analysis were published online in The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease on October 19.

In Parkinson’s, several studies have pointed toward potential benefits of exercise and physical activity. However, there is no clear understanding of the best exercise “prescription,” e.g., which activities may be most helpful for people with Parkinson’s and how they actually impact symptoms.

Researchers led by Christian Duval, Ph.D., of the University of Montreal, reviewed 106 studies done between 1981 and 2005, all of which were designed to look at the effects of physical activity on four major areas in PD: physical, cognitive, clinical and psychosocial. The results of each study were then assessed by the researchers and categorized as having a “positive effect” or “no effect.”


  • Overall, exercise was associated with improvements in clinical symptoms of PD and quality of life, but there were differences in which symptoms were likely to improve.
  • Exercise showed the most potential for helping people with PD to improve strength of their lower and upper limbs, as well as endurance and speed and metabolic function.
  • Exercise was strongly correlated to improvement in gait, mobility, posture and balance.
  • Flexibility and trunk strength were less likely to improve by exercise.
  • Physical activity was not likely to improve fine motor control.
  • Exercise was not highly correlated with improvements in cognitive function or depression.

What Does it Mean?

This analysis confirmed that exercise has positive effects in people with PD, particularly as it relates to gait and balance. However, it also suggests that some areas, such as cognition, are not likely to improve as a result of exercise, at least not by the regimens that have been studied to date.

The positive effects of physical activity for people with PD are well-documented; however, this is the first time that a meta-analysis has been conducted using 34 years’ worth of data. The most important takeaway is that physical activity improves lower limb strength, endurance, speed, gait, mobility and posture, while significantly improving quality of life. Exercise is intended to be used in conjunction with other Parkinson's treatments and therapies.

Learn More

Do you have additional questions about the role exercise plays in improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease? Learn more by accessing PDF’s free resources below or try contacting our National Helpline at (800) 457-6676 or with any additional questions.

Read: How Can Exercise Benefit People with Parkinson’s Disease 
Read: Walking Well with Parkinson’s Disease 

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Source Date: Feb 06 2017