Physical activity has been shown to improve motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease. As such, the Parkinson’s Foundation and the American College of Sports Medicine released recommendations about exercise and physical activity for patients with Parkinson disease.

Studies have identified that patients who engage in exercise had improved symptoms of the disease in addition to higher quality of life, improved balance and mobility, fewer depressive symptoms, and improved thinking skills.

With the goal of increasing quality of life and to promote more positive health outcomes, these recommendations were formulated during a convening of thought leaders in exercise research and medicine in March of 2020.


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A patient who has been living with Parkinson disease for 15 years informed the Parkinson’s Foundation that living with the disease is an active sport in and of itself, but he was unsure how he could optimize his fitness routine.

For this reason, the foundations recommended patients to have a consultation with a physical therapist who specializes in Parkinson disease for a functional evaluation in order to tailor an exercise routine that incorporates patient-specific adaptations.

In general, every week patients should engage in 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise and the routine should progress in intensity with time.

Patients with Parkinson disease were recommended to stretch at least 2-3 times per week. Daily stretching has been found to be most effective. Stretching should include sustained movements with deep breathing and be performed prior to more intensive exercise.

Balance, agility, and multitasking training should occur daily or at least 2-3 times per week. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, dance, or boxing were recommended. This type of training should include multi-directional stepping, dynamic balancing, and weight shifting. Supervision or holding on to a stable object may be required for some patients.

For aerobic activity, patients with Parkinson disease were advised to engage in 30 minutes of continuous or intermittent moderate to vigorous aerobic activity 3 times per week. Continuous, rhythmic aerobic activities such as swimming, brisk walking, running, cycling, or an aerobics class were recommended. Some patients may be at risk for low blood pressure or blunted heart rate, so precautions should be taken.

On 2-3 non-consecutive days, patients were recommended to engage in 30 minutes of strength training comprising 10-15 repetitions using weight machines, free weights, resistance bands, or body weight targeting upper and lower extremities. Full range of motion may be impacted by muscle stiffness or instability.

With these general guidelines, patients with Parkinson disease may effectively and safely work towards an improved quality of life.

Reference

Parkinson’s Foundation and ACSM announce exercise recommendations for Parkinson’s Disease [press release]. Miami, FL & New York, NY: Parkinson’s Foundation and The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). May 25, 2021.