Background and purpose: Exercise intervention studies for people with Parkinson disease (PD) have been shown to result in improvement in a variety of outcome measures. However, after the supervised exercise period, these measures tend to return toward baseline values. This regression may reflect the progressive nature of PD but may also reflect a decline in activity levels. The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn more about the motivations and barriers to continued exercise among persons with PD following a 16-month exercise intervention study.
Methods: Eighteen individuals with PD (12 men and 6 women) and their spouses participated in structured interviews concerning reasons for entering the exercise study, experiences during the study, activity levels after the study, and strategies to encourage ongoing activity. Of those with PD, 15 had completed the exercise study and 3 had dropped out before completion.
Results: Among the 18 individuals who participated in the interviews, motivations for exercising included: hope that exercise would slow the disease or prevent a decline in function (7 individuals [39%]), feeling better with exercise (3 individuals [17%]), belief that exercise is beneficial (3 individuals [17%]), and encouragement from family members (3 individuals [17%]). After the study, all graduates and 2 of the 3 dropouts maintained some physical activity. For 14 (79%) respondents, intensity and/or frequency was reduced from maximal activity levels achieved during the intervention. To encourage ongoing activity, participants wanted evidence supporting the benefits of exercise (5 participants [28%]), greater availability of programs (4 participants [22%]), and guidance from medical providers toward exercise studies (3 participants [17%]).
Discussion and conclusions: This study provides insights into the motivations and barriers for continued exercise after an exercise study. The issues identified provide information that may assist practitioners as they design exercise programs for individuals with PD. It may be of value to explore these issues in future experimental studies.