Stanford Parkinson's
Community Outreach

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, Recommendations for Managing Symptoms” 
Published by the Brian Grant Foundation
This 8-page booklet includes an overview of exercise for Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a word on PD exercise research, safety considerations, recommendations PD exercise, PD exercise principles, a table of PD symptoms and suggested movement and activities to help manage them, and links to Exercise for Parkinson’s Training for Professionals and to free online exercise videos.

 

“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 Foundation (Now the 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

“Exercise”
By the Parkinson’s Foundation
Exercise is a vital to maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living.  It can improve many PD symptoms.  This webpage discusses what type of exercise is beneficial, challenges to exercising and tips for getting started, including contact information for the Parkinson’s Foundation’s helpline to find an exercise class near you.

 

“Why You Should Try PD-Specific Exercise Classes,” by Suzanne Drolet
By PD Active, October 24, 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.

 

“The Effects of Exercise on PD”
By the Parkinson’s Foundation, January 13, 2015
In this 1-hour webinar physical therapist Margaret Schenkman discusses the importance of exercise and activity for living well with PD, current evidence and gaps in knowledge concerning exercise and activity benefits, and evidence suggesting vigorous activity might have neuroprotective benefits.

 

“Exercise strategies to Combat the Symptoms of PD”
By UCSF Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center, May 20, 2017
This 36-minute lecture by Catherine Printz, PT, DPT, NCS, includes an overview of what research shows is the benefit of exercise to those with PD, how to determine which exercise is best for you, commonly asked questions in her physical therapy clinic and solutions to address common mobility problems.

 


“How to Exercise With Parkinson’s”
By the Davis Phinney Foundation, November 21, 2018
Episode 108 of the Parkinson’s Podcast is a 30-minute interview with Dr. Jay Alberts, a biomedical engineer at the Cleveland Clinic and founder of Pedaling for Parkinson’s.  Dr. Alberts found riding a tandem bike with someone who has no PD results in brain changes, minimizing symptoms (smell, tremor, manual dexterity).  Any exercise that increases the quantity and quality of information to the brain (e.g. cycling, boxing, dancing and other exercises that require timing, coordination, speed, etc.) should result in the same symptomatic improvement.

 


"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.

 

“Optimal Exercise Strategies for Stability, Stamina and Strength”
By the Parkinson’s Foundation, January 21, 2020
In this 1-hour webinar Joellyn Fox, DPT, discusses the impact PD has on strength, endurance and balance and shares which specific exercises can improve each domain.  Registration is required, but it is free.

 


Expert-Level Resources

"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.

 


This page most recently updated by Denise Dagan, April 2020.

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