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Weight Training for Parkinson's Disease

How to Weight Train to Improve Parkinson's Disease


Updated May 22, 2007

About Parkinson's Disease. Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive nervous system condition that results from inadequate levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine being produced in the brain.

The consequence of this shortage of dopamine is interrupted movement control that results in tremors and shakes and altered walking (gait) patterns. The cause of Parkinson's disease is not known although factors in the environment such as pollutants may play a role. The condition is mainly controlled with drugs such as levadopa.

Doing Weights with Parkinson's Disease (PD)

So how does strength and weight training assist in Parkinson's disease? The following provides some pointers.

Safety. A study of people with mild to moderate PD found that:

"Persons with mild to moderate PD can safely and feasibly participate in high-force eccentric resistance training". (Dibble 2006).

Muscle and strength. In a comparative trial, 10 people with PD who performed strength training developed significantly increased muscle size and strength compared to another group who did standard exercise movements.

"Muscle volume, muscle force, and functional status improvements occurred in persons with PD as a result of high-force eccentric resistance training." (Dibble, 2, 2006)

Creatine supplements. Creatine is a non-steroid supplement used by some weight trainers to build bulk and strength. It has a good safety record. Comparing two groups of PD sufferers doing strength training, the creatine supplement group showed modest improvements over the non-creatine group. Further studies are needed to confirm that this would be an advantage worth considering.

". . . interactions for chest press strength and biceps curl strength, and post hoc testing revealed that the improvement was significantly greater for CRE (group)." (Hass 2007)

Balance and strength. In a randomized study of 15 people with PD, the group doing weights and balance exercises fared better than the balance-only group.

"Both groups could balance longer before falling, and this effect persisted for at least 4 weeks. Muscle strength increased marginally in the balance group and substantially in the combined group, and this effect persisted for at least 4 weeks." (Hirsch 2003)

Gait and walking function. Two groups of people were studied, one group with PD and the other without Parkinson's. Both groups, of similar age and gender, undertook an 8-week weight training program focused primarily on the lower limbs.

"Subjects with Parkinson's disease had gains in strength similar to those of normal elderly adults. Patients with Parkinson's disease also had significant gains in stride length, walking velocity, and postural angles compared with pretreatment values." (Scandalis 2001).

In addition to traditional weight training of the large muscle groups of the arms and legs, respiratory muscle exercises have been shown to improve respiratory function in Parkinson's subjects. (Silverman 2006).


Dibble LE, Hale T, Marcus RL, Gerber JP, Lastayo PC. The safety and feasibility of high-force eccentric resistance exercise in persons with Parkinson's disease. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2006 Sep;87(9):1280-2.

Dibble LE, Hale TF, Marcus RL, Droge J, Gerber JP, LaStayo PC. High-intensity resistance training amplifies muscle hypertrophy and functional gains in persons with Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord. 2006 Sep;21(9):1444-52.

Hass CJ, Collins MA, Juncos JL. Resistance training with creatine monohydrate improves upper-body strength in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized trial. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007 Mar-Apr;21(2):107-15.

Silverman EP, Sapienza CM, Saleem A, Carmichael C, Davenport PW, Hoffman-Ruddy B, Okun MS. Tutorial on maximum inspiratory and expiratory mouth pressures in individuals with idiopathic Parkinson disease (IPD) and the preliminary results of an expiratory muscle strength training program. NeuroRehabilitation. 2006;21(1):71-9.

Hirsch MA, Toole T, Maitland CG, Rider RA. The effects of balance training and high-intensity resistance training on persons with idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003 Aug;84(8):1109-17.

Scandalis TA, Bosak A, Berliner JC, Helman LL, Wells MR. Resistance training and gait function in patients with Parkinson's disease. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 Jan;80(1):38-43.

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