Providing resources and ideas for cures for Parkinson's disease:


Exercise and Physical Therapy for Parkinson's Disease:


Research has shown that vigorous exercise can make improvements in the physical movement of Parkinson's patients and also help diminish the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Exercise can help repair dysfunctional motor control and enhance supporting cellular systems.

Enhanced Neuroplasticity:

While Parkinson's disease degrades and kills off neurons, exercise has been shown to support neuroplasticity to help counter some the effects.

Neuroplasticity has the following components:
  • development of new neural connections (Neurogenesis, Synaptogenesis)
  • synaptic restructuring and morphology (rewiring and development of neural pathways for repair and development of new function)
  • maintaining homeostasis (preferred and healthy biological status quo)
  • learning new behavior
  • relearning lost behavior

Neurotrophic Factors:

Strenuous aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the blood levels of neurotrophic factors that encourage the healing and creation of new neurons to directly challenge Parkinson's disease, which progresses by damaging and killing off neurons in the substantia nigra. A 2016 meta-study (an aggregation of multiple studies) published in PLoS One supports the theory that exercise increases resting concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the peripheral blood (both plasma and serum), which in turn was linked to the repair and growth of neurons as well as an increase in neuronal connections. It was found that aerobic exercises but not resistance training, supported increased resting BDNF concentrations and that there was no significant difference in effect between males and females. This refers to exercise where the intensity is greater than 50% of peak oxygen uptake (VO2).
Reference: The Effect of Exercise Training on Resting Concentrations of Peripheral Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): A Meta-Analysis

A study with mice showed that the lactate build-up from exercise induced the generation of trophic factors which increased astrocyte branching, shape and size. This is important because astrocytes are star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord which bridge blood vessels to neurons to provide nutrients. Astrocytes are essential for neuron survival and repair as well as axonal growth.

Astrocytes, neurons and capillaries


It is also speculated that a genetic SNP in the gene encoding BDNF may have an impact on the effect of exercise on BDNF concentrations, in other words, some may be genetically predisposed to see a more profoundly positive effect from exercise than others. See Genetics and Parkinson's Disease coverage of the genetic SNP rs6265.

Vascular Health:

Exercise also has an effect on "Cerebral Vasculature of Healthy Aged Subjects". High levels of aerobic activity was found to increase the number of small-caliber blood vessels in the brain, giving some elderly subjects the characteristics of the brains of much younger individuals. Exercise also had an effect on lowering the twisty, curved nature of the blood vessels as well, allowing for better flow. This curved trait of the blood vessel is called "Tortuosity" and when it increases, is also an indicator of aged blood vessels, hypertension and other diseases. Exercise increases growth of small blood vessels and lowers their Tortuosity.
Reference: American Journal of Neuroradiology The Effect of Exercise on the Cerebral Vasculature of Healthy Aged Subjects as Visualized by MR Angiography

Exercise Is Good:

Exercise can reduce inflammation and thus reduce the impediments to the immune system and its ability to counter alpha-synuclein. Exercise also has an effect on serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain which positively affects one's mood with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.

Physical Therapy:

Exercise is the general term for physical movement intended to improve the health of the patient while physical therapy (PT) is focused on specific motions to restore restricted movement suffered from injury or disease (eg Parkinson's). Parkinson's Wellness Recovery (PWR) physical therapy is a specific set of large amplitude, high effort and attention to action training exercises meant to target multiple symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Emphasis is on performing multiple coordinated actions (dual-tasking or multi-tasking), weight shifting, axial mobility and transitional movements. The goal is to counter rigidity, bradykinesia (slow movement), hypokinesia (disposition to small movements) and loss of coordination. Physical therapists certified in PWR!Moves or a Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS) physical therapist can tailor a physical therapy program suited to your physical level.

PT Videos:

PWR!4Life Exercise Essentials (Intro):

A video introducing the concepts of PWR! physical therapy presented by the founder of the movement Becky Farley PhD, MS, PT.

PWR! Moves Positions - Supine:

Exercises for lying on your back

Pole Walking Exercises:

Exercises for those who's balance may be compromised and find a walking pole to be helpful.

Video from Re+Active Physical Therapy & Wellness (Torrance CA)

How to get Unstuck from a Parkinson's Freezing Episode - The "5S" Method:

A method to cope with a Parkinson's Freezing Episode.

Web Resources:

  • Not likely to suffer any side effects while under the supervision of experts. Intense exercise should help repair and grow neurons and have a positive effect on one's mood. While BDNF increase in the blood was found after intense exercise, it is not clear that it will pass easily through the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in the same concentration. Physical Therapy should improve mobility and balance.

  • Possible injuries.