Study reveals benefits of physical activity for Parkinson’s symptoms

Researchers compared results from over 150 studies to understand how different types of physical activity can be used to manage Parkinson’s symptoms.

Being physically active can have a positive impact on Parkinson’s symptoms, both physically and mentally. Research has shown that aiming for 2.5 hours of physical activity a week can help people with Parkinson’s take control of their condition. Read more about the benefits of physical activity on our website.

While there are many different types of physical activity, some will naturally suit some people better than others. However, it’s unknown whether some specific activities might be useful to target particular symptoms. Or whether exercises should be advised at different stages of progression of the condition.

What did the researchers do?

The research team conducted a form of study called a Cochrane review. They analysed results from 156 different studies involving different types of physical activity including dance, aqua-based training and weight training. They looked at feedback from participants in these studies to assess for changes in quality of life, and other common tests to monitor progression of the condition.

Overall, the researchers found that taking part in physical activity had benefits for people with Parkinson’s in terms of movement or improved quality of life, when compared with people who had not been active. 

It was not clear whether specific forms of physical activity were better than others for people with Parkinson’s. The team did find some evidence that linked taking part in dance classes with an improvement in balance and other symptoms associated with movement. They also found that aqua-based training was linked to improvements in quality of life, although whether this was due to the physical activity or social interaction at exercise classes was unclear. 

Read the full review on the Cochrane library website.

What does this mean?

This study, combining results collected from over 7,000 people with Parkinson’s, offers great evidence that taking part in most types of physical activity can be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. 

Importantly, there was very little evidence that physical activity resulted in harm, or worsening of symptoms, for any participants.

Dr Becky Jones, Research Communications Officer at Parkinson’s UK, said:

"Reviews like this are a great example of how looking across results from many different studies can provide us with a clearer picture of whether a treatment or an activity could be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. The study adds to our existing knowledge that physical activity can be an important way for people with Parkinson’s to take control of the condition.

"The Cochrane review highlights exciting areas that need further study. More research into the particular benefits of dance or aqua-based training could help guide people with Parkinson’s to try out activities that could have the most impact on symptoms. 

"As always, we recommend that anyone wishing to make a change to their lifestyle speak with their healthcare provider for advice before starting."