Effects of Exercise on Falls, Balance, and Gait Ability in Parkinson's Disease: A Meta-analysis

Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2016 Jul;30(6):512-27. doi: 10.1177/1545968315613447. Epub 2015 Oct 21.


Postural instability and falls are complex and disabling features of Parkinson's disease (PD) and respond poorly to anti-Parkinsonian medication. There is an imperative need to evaluate the effectiveness of exercise interventions in enhancing postural stability and decreasing falls in the PD population. The objectives of our study were to determine the effects of exercise training on the enhancement of balance and gait ability and reduction in falls for people with PD and to investigate potential factors contributing to the training effects on balance and gait ability of people with PD. We included 25 randomized control trials of a moderate methodological quality in our meta-analysis. The trials examined the effects of exercise training on balance and gait ability and falls against no intervention and placebo intervention. The results showed positive effects of exercise intervention on enhancing balance and gait performance (Hedges' g = 0.303 over the short-term in 24 studies and 0.419 over the long-term in 12 studies; P < .05) and reducing the fall rate (rate ratio = 0.485 over the short-term in 4 studies and 0.413 over the long-term in 5 studies; P < .05). The longest follow-up duration was 12 months. There was no evidence that training decreased the number of fallers over the short- or long-term (P > .05). The results of our metaregression and subgroup analysis showed that facility-based training produced greater training effects on improving PD participants' balance and gait ability (P < .05). The findings support the application of exercise training to improve balance and gait ability and prevent falls in people with PD.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; accidental falls; balance; exercise; gait.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology*