The Effects of Physical Activity in Parkinson's Disease: A Review

J Parkinsons Dis. 2016 Oct 19;6(4):685-698. doi: 10.3233/JPD-160790.


Background: Physical activity (PA) is increasingly advocated as an adjunct intervention for individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). However, the specific benefits of PA on the wide variety of impairments observed in patients with PD has yet to be clearly identified.

Objective: Highlight health parameters that are most likely to improve as a result of PA interventions in patients with PD.

Methods: We compiled results obtained from studies examining a PA intervention in patients with PD and who provided statistical analyses of their results. 868 outcome measures were extracted from 106 papers published from 1981 to 2015. The results were classified as having a statistically significant positive effect or no effect. Then, outcome measures were grouped into four main categories and further divided into sub-categories.

Results: Our review shows that PA seems most effective in improving Physical capacities and Physical and cognitive functional capacities. On the other hand, PA seems less efficient at improving Clinical symptoms of PD and Psychosocial aspects of life, with only 50% or less of results reporting positive effects. The impact of PA on Cognitive functions and Depression also appears weaker, but few studies have examined these outcomes.

Discussion: Our results indicate that PA interventions have a positive impact on physical capacities and functional capacities. However, the effect of PA on symptoms of the disease and psychosocial aspects of life are moderate and show more variability. This review also highlights the need for more research on the effects of PA on cognitive functions, depression as well as specific symptoms of PD.

Keywords: Parkinson; bradykinesia; exercise; physical activity; rehabilitation; tremor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*

Grant support