How exercise can help people with Parkinson’s Disease live a better life


Physical exercise, in any structured form, has been found to improve the quality of life and motor symptoms of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects mostly older people that gradually causes tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, balance and coordination issues, and emotional problems, among other symptoms. While it cannot be cured, physical exercise has been found to improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s.

According to the first Cochrane review of physical exercise’s effects on Parkinson’s disease, any structured exercise is better than none. The review studied 156 randomised controlled trials with 7,939 participants from all over the world, making it the most comprehensive research to date.

The review found that all types of exercise, from dance and water-based exercise to strength, resistance and endurance training, tai chi, yoga, and physiotherapy, made mild to large improvements to movement-related (“motor”) symptoms and quality of life. The average age of the participants was between 60 and 74 years, and most had mild to moderate disease and no major impairment of their thinking processes.

While most types of exercise worked well for the participants compared to no physical exercise, the review also found that water-based training, multi-exercise training and mind-body training had clinically meaningful beneficial effects on quality of life. Dancing, training to improve gait, balance and movement, and strength and resistance training also had clinically meaningful improvements in the severity of motor symptoms.

However, the review also noted that the certainty in the estimates for the effects on symptoms from different forms of exercise varied because some studies were very small. Additionally, the authors noted that although their review highlights that most types of exercise produce meaningful improvements, it does not rule out the effectiveness of programs, such as physiotherapy, specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s.

Despite the limitations, the review highlights the importance of physical exercise in general, with the exact exercise type being secondary. Therefore, people with Parkinson’s should be given special consideration to help motivate them to adhere to an exercise program.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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