By  Anthony G. Alessi, MD – Healthy Rounds

Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately 1.5 million Americans.  The average age of onset is 62 years but it can strike patients who are much younger.

PD is the result of a neurochemical imbalance from a lack of dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine binds to receptors in the basal ganglia of the brain to allow smooth, coordinated movements.



Typical symptoms of PD include:

  • Tremors at rest
  • Slow movements
  • Joint stiffness called rigidity
  • Poor balance

PD is treated with Sinemet, a medication that increases the dopamine available to the brain.  Other medications serve to make the available dopamine bind more efficiently.

The prominent motor symptoms severely impair mobility and make PD one of several diseases often referred to as movement disorders.  Ironically, new information indicates that physical exercise is an effective complementary treatment for PD despite poor motor function.

In a recent study, 67 people with PD were assigned to three exercise groups: high intensity treadmill (increasing speed and incline), low intensity treadmill (low speed and no incline) and resistance exercise and no treadmill.

Surprisingly, the low intensity treadmill group had the most improvement in subsequent gait testing.  The combination of low intensity treadmill and resistance exercise produced the best overall PD impairment scores.

Treadmill exercise now joins other fitness activities like tai chi and Latin tango dancing as acceptable beneficial activities that can be used along with medication to improve mobility in PD.

This information also emphasizes the danger of inactivity when fighting this progressive illness.


About the Author

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, MMM ,graduated from the University of Rome and completed his residency and neuromuscular fellowship at the University of Michigan. He is in private practice in Norwich, CT, specializing inneurology, electrodiagnosticmedicineand sports neurology. He is board-certified in neurology and electrodiagnostic medicine. Dr. Alessi received his Masters degree inMedicalManagement from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001.

He serves as a neurologic consultant to many athletic organizations including the University of Connecticut Athletic Department, Norwich Free Academy and the Connecticut State Boxing Commission.Dr. Alessi also serves as neurologic consultant to the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, CT Sun (WNBA) and Hartford Colonials (UFL).

>He is medical director of the William W. Backus Hospital Stroke Center, writes a syndicated column, “HealthySports,” for the Norwich Bulletin and is host of “Neuro Frontiers” on Reach MD XM 160 and “HealthyRounds,” syndicated through WTIC 1080, the Hartford CBS affiliate.

Dr. Alessi’s book, “Healthy Sports: A Doctor’sLessonsfor a Winning Lifestyle,” is a compilation of instructive columns.His most recent book, “Lift Up Your Hearts: Healing Haiti, Land of Hardship,” recounts the work of Dr. Alessi and other medical volunteers after the earthquake in Haiti.Reach him at


Follow Us

Families Online Magazine

Staff writers at Families Online Magazine strive to bring yourelevant and helpful information for your family's relationships and health and wellbeing, Experts provide monthly advice columns about parenting babes to teens, education, finance, and budgeting, health and family fun activities. Featured columns include What's for Dinner Ideas, Are we there yet? Family travel and the hilarious Family Funny Stuff column.
Follow Us
Families Online MagazineHealthy Rounds Medical ColumnExercise and Fitness,Families Online Magazine,HealthBy  Anthony G. Alessi, MD - Healthy Rounds Parkinson's Disease and Exercise Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately 1.5 million Americans.  The average age of onset is 62 years but it can strike patients who are much...Parenting and Family Fun Activities for Kids