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Exercise Improves Function in Parkinson’s Disease

Physical Exercise Improves Function in Parkinsons Disease A new randomized clinical trial provides definitive proof that exercise is a good thing for people with Parkinson disease (PD).

Researchers discovered physical exercise, including treadmill, stretching and resistance exercises, was associated with improve gait speed, muscle strength and fitness for individuals with PD.

Investigators say the study findings add to the evidence regarding the value of interventions for PD beyond medications and surgery. Exercise offers an opportunity for patients to be active participants in their care.

The study is published in Online First by Archives of Neurology, a JAMA Network publication.

Current pharmacological treatments are often inadequate for preserving the ability to walk or retain mobility as PD progresses. Accordingly, there is growing interest in the use of exercise to improve mobility and function, write the study authors.

Lisa M. Shulman, M.D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial of three types of physical exercise to compare the effectiveness of treadmill, stretching and resistance exercises in improving gait speed, strength and fitness for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

The study included 67 patients with PD who had gait impairment and were randomly assigned to one of three groups in the trial: a higher intensity treadmill exercise (30 minutes at 70 percent to 80 percent of heart rate reserve); a lower-intensity treadmill exercise (50 minutes at 40 percent to 50 percent of heart rate reserve); and stretching and resistance exercises (two sets of 10 repetitions on each leg on three resistance machines).

Patients performed the exercises three times a week for three months. After the training, researchers discovered that all 3 exercise groups benefited from the intervention.

“The effects of exercise were seen across all three exercise groups. The lower-intensity treadmill exercise resulted in the greatest improvement in gait speed. Both the higher- and lower-intensity treadmill exercises improved cardiovascular fitness.

“Only the stretching and resistance exercises improved muscle strength. Therefore, exercise can improve gait speed, muscle strength and fitness for patients with Parkinson disease,” the authors said.

According to the study results, all three types of exercise improved distance on the 6-minute walk: lower-intensity treadmill exercise (12 percent increase), stretching and resistance exercises (9 percent increase) and higher-intensity treadmill exercises (6 percent increase).

Both types of treadmill training improved cardiovascular fitness, whereas stretching and resistance had no effect. Only stretching and resistance improved muscle strength (16 percent increase).

“The fact that the lower-intensity treadmill exercise is the most feasible exercise for most patients with PD has important implications for clinical practice,” state the authors.

This activity can reduce disability and improve quality of life, they said.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journal

Elderly man on a treadmill photo by shutterstock.

Exercise Improves Function in Parkinson’s Disease

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Exercise Improves Function in Parkinson’s Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Nov 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.