Parkinson's disease is a prevalent neurodegenerative disorder for which only symptomatic treatment exists. Gait and balance disturbance is common in Parkinson's disease and is a major contributor to increased disability and decreased health-related quality of life and survival. Balance and gait deficits in Parkinson's disease are notoriously difficult to treat and are not significantly helped by pharmacological or surgical treatment. The last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in the research and clinical interest in using exercise as a treatment for mobility problems in people with Parkinson's disease. With exciting advances in basic science research suggesting neurochemical and neuroplastic changes after exercise, an increasing number of high-quality studies are documenting particular aspects of mobility improving after exercise. Exercise has the potential to help both motor (gait, balance, strength) and nonmotor (depression, apathy, fatigue, constipation) aspects of Parkinson's disease as well as secondary complications of immobility (cardiovascular, osteoporosis). This perspective article focuses primarily on recent evidence on the effects of exercise in improving mobility while highlighting the importance of targeted exercise intervention for maximizing the benefits of exercise. Suggestions for exercise guidelines, adherence issues, and directions for future research are provided.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease; exercise; mobility; physical therapy.
© 2013 Movement Disorder Society.