Aerobic Exercise: Evidence for a Direct Brain Effect to Slow Parkinson Disease Progression

Mayo Clin Proc. 2018 Mar;93(3):360-372. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.12.015.


No medications are proven to slow the progression of Parkinson disease (PD). Of special concern with longer-standing PD is cognitive decline, as well as motor symptoms unresponsive to dopamine replacement therapy. Not fully recognized is the substantial accumulating evidence that long-term aerobic exercise may attenuate PD progression. Randomized controlled trial proof will not be forthcoming due to many complicating methodological factors. However, extensive and diverse avenues of scientific investigation converge to argue that aerobic exercise and cardiovascular fitness directly influence cerebral mechanisms mediating PD progression. To objectively assess the evidence for a PD exercise benefit, a comprehensive PubMed literature search was conducted, with an unbiased focus on exercise influences on parkinsonism, cognition, brain structure, and brain function. This aggregate literature provides a compelling argument for regular aerobic-type exercise and cardiovascular fitness attenuating PD progression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*