Aerobic exercise: evidence for a direct brain effect to slow Parkinson disease progression

A review in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a relatively common neurological condition with perhaps 1 million affected people in the United States. Increasingly, their treatment is falling into the hands of primary care physicians, who should be able to provide optimal care to most patients. As previously described, appropriate carbidopa / levodopa administration is the single most crucial drug strategy. Herein, the argument is advanced that the other important component of optimal PD treatment is engagement in regular aerobic-type exercise. Although no medications have been shown to slow PD progression, there is substantial evidence for vigorous exercise attenuating PD progression, which is the focus of this article.


Exercise advice may be skeptically viewed by patients. The lay public is bombarded by health advice, some biologically supported and some that are arbitrary, unsupported, or commercially driven. Exercise is easily dismissed as another dictum from health experts. In addition, regular exercise involves a stressful, time-consuming physical work, which for some people is novel. Thus, an exercise prescription for people with PD is easily discarded, especially in the absence of definite proof.


The results of the review by J. Eric Ahlskog, PhD, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, were presented in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.


See the VIDEO in which Dr Eric Ahlskog notes that exercise seems to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease-related dementia.