September 01, 2018

Is it safe to exercise with Parkinson's disease?

Q: I was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Is it safe for me to continue to participate in an exercise program at my gym?

A: Exercise is an important part of a healthy life for all people. And for people with a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson's disease, exercise is vital to maintaining mobility and daily function. In fact, Mayo Clinic experts on Parkinson's disease point to regular aerobic exercise as a means of slowing the disease's progression.

A large ongoing study known as the Parkinson's Outcomes Project has demonstrated some of these benefits. Researchers have found that people with Parkinson's who began exercising at the start of the study and consistently exercised for two years achieved improved mobility and a better quality of life. In the study, the amount of exercise needed for these benefits was at least 2.5 hours a week.

In addition, a study published this year found high-intensity exercise to be both safe and feasible for people with Parkinson's disease. Further study is recommended to see whether high intensity exercise will have a different effect on Parkinson's symptoms than does moderate-intensity exercise.

If you have Parkinson's and currently exercise, continue to safely do so. If you haven't been on a regular exercise program, it's worth considering. An ideal exercise program includes a mixture of aerobic activities such as brisk walking, swimming or jogging, strength training using weights or resistance bands, and movements that improve flexibility such as stretching or yoga. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about an exercise program to fit any limitations you may have.