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Exercise and Parkinson’s disease


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people.  It takes years for symptoms to develop and people live with the conditions for years.  In these individuals, the brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine.  As dopamine level reduce, so does the person ability to regulate movements and emotion.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s and a person can lives for many years with the diagnosis.


The main symptoms that effect movement are bradykinesia, tremors, stiffness, and decreased balance. Bradykinesia, which is slowness of movement, makes it hard to initiate physical actions such as getting up from a chair, putting on clothing, or even speech. Involuntary shaking or tremors usually occur in the hands, but can appear in other parts of the body.  Rigidity or stiffness of the arms, legs, and trunk is common and affects the ability to get into positions that are required in daily life.  Posture is impacted and can lead to instability or increased risks of falls.


For people with Parkinson’s, exercise is a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and the ability to perform activities of daily living. In fact, research from the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project shows that people with Parkinson’s who exercise a minimum of 2.5 hours a week experience a slowed decline in quality of life. Establishing early exercise habits is an essential part of overall disease management.

Why is exercise important for people with Parkinson’s?



What type of exercise should I do?

Exercise regimens should include aerobic activity, flexibility, and resistance training.  Balance training is very important to persons with PD as well.  Many forms of exercise can have positive effects on symptoms of those with Parkinson’s.  Research has shown that exercise can improve walking ability, balance, tremor, flexibility, strength, and coordination in those with Parkinson’s disease.  Improvements in these areas greatly reduce the risk of fall and slow the progression of the disease.

The best way to achieve these benefits is to exercise on a consistent basis.  Any exercise helps, but a physical therapist is trained to understand the disease and will be able to help establish a program that safely and effectively targets those symptoms specific to Parkinson’s.  They will be able to guide you to appropriate options outside of physical therapy that will allow you to continue reduce symptoms to improve your quality of life.



Treatment by a PT video