Unique award could revolutionise use of exercise as Parkinson's treatment

The Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office has joined forces with Parkinson's UK to fund a £250,000 research fellowship investigating the benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson's.

Physiotherapist Julie Jones will research which types of exercise deliver the best outcomes for people at every stage of Parkinson's and develop a model that enables people to access the right exercise at the right time.

Julie is currently a physiotherapist and senior lecturer at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Julie has considerable experience in working with people with Parkinson's and was part of the team that developed the Parkinson's UK exercise framework.

Benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson's

Chris Sebire from Aboyne has lived with Parkinson's since being diagnosed in 2014. Chris said: "Regular specialist exercise has had a huge impact on my Parkinson's symptoms. I've been attending Julie's classes at Aboyne, and the benefits are really noticeable.

"For me the exercise class has been the most positive thing that I have been involved since being diagnosed with Parkinson's. The exercises are challenging regardless of what level you can achieve. I look forward to every Friday morning and even do some of the exercises at home. It has definitely improved my physical and mental health."

Exploring the full range of benefits

Julie Jones said: "Properly targeted exercising can transform the lives of people with Parkinson's. The benefits of exercise in managing physical Parkinson's symptoms are well established. There's now a growing realisation that it also appears to lead to physiological changes within the brain that may have a disease modifying effect.

"This award from Parkinson's UK and the Chief Scientist’s Office will allow me to explore the full range of benefits. As well as carrying out research I’ll be training physiotherapists and other allied health professionals to help them support people with Parkinson's.

"That support will include how best to change people’s behaviour and motivation with regard to exercise. I recognise that where people have had Parkinson's for a long time it can be difficult to become motivated and confident enough to engage in intensive exercise. But with the right support from informed practitioners it can and does happen - and it makes a huge difference."

Partnership between Scottish Government and Parkinson's UK

Annie Macleod, Director at Parkinson's UK Scotland, said: "People with Parkinson's increasingly tell us that their exercise regimes are as important and impactful as their medication. Parkinson's UK is delighted that the CSO has joined us in funding a clinical research fellowship that has the potential to deliver real change for people with Parkinson's and for the NHS.

"We are incredibly fortunate that Julie, who is such a renowned expert in her field and a well-known face in the Parkinson's community, is taking on this vital work and Parkinson's UK will be doing all that we can to support her."

Professor David Crossman, the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist for Health said: "We are delighted to partner with Parkinson's UK to fund this exciting cross disciplinary multi-centre research. I’m confident that the outputs of this work have the potential to have a real and positive impact on the lives of those living with Parkinson's."

Exercise tips

Find out more about how exercise can help your Parkinson's.