Got Parkinson’s Disease? Get Exercise

Regular exercise reduced decline and improved mobility in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition that causes muscle tremors and reduces mobility. Help may be at hand, however.

Older couple exercising outsideResearchers from Northwestern University and Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago found that people who had Parkinson’s disease and exercised regularly did better than those who exercised less or not at all.
Lead investigator Miriam R. Rafferty, PhD, commented in a press release, “We found that people with Parkinson’s disease who maintained exercise 150 minutes per week had a smaller decline in quality of life and mobility over two years compared to people who did not exercise or exercised less. The smaller decline was significant for people who started the study as regular exercisers, as well as for people who started to exercise 150 minutes per week after their first study-related visit.”
Dr. Rafferty is a physical therapist and researcher at Northwestern University and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The researchers studied more than 3,400 patients over a period of two years. Data on the patients came from the National Parkinson Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative. This study collects information about physical and emotional symptoms, disease management and treatment as well as exercise.
All study participants completed at least three clinic visits. The patients were also assessed by means of questionnaires and functional mobility testing. The study did not examine specific types of exercise.
Dr. Rafferty and colleagues found that a “dose” of at least 150 minutes of exercise each week – any kind of exercise – improved patient’s mobility, physical function and quality of life. Patients who were already exercising when the study began and those who started an exercise program during the study showed similar functional improvements.
“The most important part of the study,” Dr. Rafferty commented in the press release, “is that it suggests that people who are not currently achieving recommended levels of exercise could start to exercise today to lessen the declines in quality of life and mobility that can occur with this progressive disease.”

The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.
Information on study funding and conflict of interest was not available.
Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, “Exercising 2.5 Hours Per Week Associated with Slower Declines in Parkinson’s Disease Patients”’s-disease-patients
Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, “Regular Exercise, Quality of Life, and Mobility in Parkinson’s Disease: A Longitudinal Analysis of National Parkinson Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative Data”

Written by: Beth Greenwood, RN | Medically reviewed by: Dr. Robert Carlson, M.D.