Research shows at home exercise improves movement symptoms

Researchers have shown that those taking part in a home-based exercise programme experienced improvements in their motor symptoms.

The results from researchers in the Netherlands, published in the journal The Lancet Neurology, highlight the potential of an indoor cycling programme to improve symptoms in those with early-stage Parkinson’s.

About the study

The exercise programme involved 130 people with Parkinson’s who took part in either aerobic exercise on an exercise bike or non-aerobic gentle stretching for 30-45 minutes, 3 times a week for 6 months. The control group were those doing the stretching. 

What do we know about exercise?

Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio”, increases fitness by making the heart work harder than normal to deliver oxygen to working muscles. During aerobic exercise, both the heart rate and breathing rate increase. The brain also receives a greater supply of blood, which is thought to increase oxygen and nutrients to keep the tissue healthy and functioning well.

Exercise is known to benefit individuals with Parkinson’s but research into specific exercise programmes are limited - one reason for this is that it’s hard for people to stick to an exercise programme. This study tackled this problem by using a home-based programme alongside remote supervision from a trained professional and motivational input in the form of videos and virtual reality ‘games’. 

A way to manage symptoms 

In this study, the symptoms participants experienced when not taking medication were assessed before and after the 6 month exercise programmes.

The results showed that motor symptoms improved more in those doing the aerobic exercise programme than the control group. However, no difference was seen in non-motor symptoms such as sleep and memory. 

This study added to growing evidence of the importance of exercise in Parkinson’s and highlights that more vigorous aerobic activity may be more beneficial to improve motor symptoms in those in early stages of Parkinson’s.

Dr Katherine Fletcher, Research Communications Officer at Parkinson's UK, said: 

“There is still much to be learnt about what types of exercise and physical activity improve different types of Parkinson’s symptoms, and how exercise may be having a long term effect on our brain.

“What we do know is that exercise is good for all of us, and for those with Parkinson’s it can be as important as medication for managing symptoms.

“It’s never too late to get started and we have lots of information on our website about how to have fun and stay safe while taking part in exercise and physical activities.”

Interested in reading our advice on exercise?

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach and the best exercise to do will depend on the way Parkinson's affects you. Find out what kinds of exercise people are getting involved in and find support near you.