APDA American Parkinson Disease Association
Information & Referral Center

Exercise - what, where, and why?

Studies show that exercise can be very helpful to those with Parkinson's Disease. A common question at support group meetings is "what exercise is best?" Most movement disorder specialists say that the best exercise is one that is safe and that the participant enjoys (as it improves the chances that you'll do it every day).

Living in Northern or Central California? Here's a list of exercise classes available, with an emphasis on classes for those with PD. If you don't see anything listed near you, check with your local senior center for classes designed for seniors or those with disabilities. See our separate list of fall prevention programs.

Want to exercise in the privacy of your home? See this list of some of our favorite PD-specific exercise videos.

Other good resources are listed below.

Relevant Publications - Downloadable

“Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease: Essential Facts for Patients”
Published by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS), 2016
This 1-page fact sheet explains briefly why exercise is important for those with Parkinson’s, including the benefit to thinking and memory, strength, balance, gait and posture.  It also lists some exercises recommended for those with PD.


“Fitness Counts,” by Heather Cianci, PT, MS, GSC
Published by the National Parkinson’s Foundation, 2006
This 51-page manual describes exercise methods that contribute to stability and includes photos to demonstrate proper form. Additional sections cover complementary therapies and partner assisted exercise.
En Espanol: Enfermedad de Parkinson: Estar en Forma Cuenta

Relevant Online Information

"How Exercise Can Improve Life with Parkinson's"
By Margaret Schenkman, PT, PhD, PDF News & Reviews, Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Spring 2016.
This webpage (previously newsletter article) discusses how exercise can benefit someone with Parkinson's Disease.

"Parkinson's Disease Journal Article Recommendations"
By APDA National Resource Center for Rehabilitation at Boston University
This webpage lists the best medical research on the management of PD symptoms through exercise. Note that the center offers a tollfree “exercise helpline” where callers can speak with a licensed physical therapist. Available Monday to Friday, 9am-3pm (Boston time) at 888-606-1688 or rehab@bu.edu.

"When in doubt: Exercise!"
By World Parkinson Coalition, early 2016
Terrific 36-minute podcast featuring movement disorder specialist Helen Bronte-Stewart, MD, and physical therapist Terry Ellis, PT, PhD. In this podcast, the speakers explain what the research tells us about the value of exercise for PD. And they address what exercise is best.

“Why You Should Try PD-Specific Exercise Classes,” by Suzanne Drolet
Published on facebook, June 7, 2017
This webpage lists five reasons PD-specific exercise classes are worth considering for those diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. What form of exercise you choose is not as important as moving as often as you can for as long as you can.

Relevant Online Lectures and Webinars

“Ask the MD: Exercise and Parkinson’s”
By the Michael J Fox Foundation, May 22, 2017
In this 2:41 video, Dr. Rachel Dolhun discusses the benefits of physical activity for both motor and non-motor symptoms, which exercise regimen is best, and that research continues into the effect of exercise in Parkinson's disease.

“Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease”
By UCSF Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center, November 12, 2011
This 36-minute lecture by Dr. Nancy Byl discusses the benefits of both physical and mental exercise for aging and Parkinson’s disease, what type and how much exercise is beneficial, with lots of suggestions for safety and success, and an overview of the neuroprotective effects of exercise.  The last 10 minutes are supplemental slides without comment.

“Exercise and PD”
By UCSF Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center, November 15, 2014
This 28-minute video by Erica Pitsch, DPT, NCS, begins with an audience participation exercise to demonstrate that exercise is fun and neuroprotective.  The lecture continues with why exercise, getting started safely (rollator or ustep II most effective), PD-specific exercise programs (dance, speed/boxing, BIG/PWR!, Tai Chi), some suggestions for success, and finding a qualified PT or coach.

"My Parkinson's Story: Exercise" 
By the Veteran's Administration
This 9-minute video alternates between an interview with a man and his wife, the man's neurologist and Parkinson's researcheers. The man and his wife share how he was freezing and falling daily until he began exercising regularly. Researchers explain how exercise helps by prevention, compensation and neuoplasticity. Regular exercise for strengthening, cardiovascular fitness, stretching, agility and balance have as powerful an effect on fluidity of movement as Parkinson's medications.


This page most recently updated May 2016. Page was initially created in late 2012 by Robin Riddle with Stanford Parkinson's Community Outreach.

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