The Universal Prescription for Parkinson's Disease: Exercise

J Parkinsons Dis. 2020;10(s1):S21-S27. doi: 10.3233/JPD-202100.


Over the past two decades, aerobic exercise has emerged as a mainstream recommendation to aid in treating Parkinson's disease (PD). Despite the acknowledgement of the benefits of exercise for people with PD (PwPD), frequently, exercise recommendations lack specificity in terms of frequency, intensity and duration. Additionally, conflating physical activity with exercise has contributed to providing vague exercise recommendations to PwPD. Therefore, the beneficial effects of exercise may not be fully realized in PwPD. Data provided by animal studies and select human trials indicate aerobic exercise may facilitate structural and functional changes in the brain. Recently, several large human clinical trials have been completed and collectively support the use of aerobic exercise, specifically high-intensity aerobic exercise, in improving PD motor symptoms. Data from these and other studies provide the basis to include aerobic exercise as an integral component in treating PD. Based on positive clinical findings and trials, it is advised that PwPD perform aerobic exercise in the following dose: 3x/week, 30-40-minute main exercise set, 60-80% of heart rate reserve or 70-85% of heart rate max. In lieu of heart rate, individuals can achieve an intensity of 14-17 on a 20-point RPE scale. Ongoing clinical trials, SPARX3 and CYCLE-II, have potential to further develop patient-specific exercise recommendations through prognostic modeling.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; aerobic exercise; exercise; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy / psychology
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*
  • Prescriptions*