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Long-term Group Exercise for People With Parkinson's Disease: A Feasibility Study

States, Rebecca A. MA, PhD; Spierer, David K. EdD, CSCS; Salem, Yasser PT, PhD, NCS, PCS

Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy: September 2011 - Volume 35 - Issue 3 - p 122–128
doi: 10.1097/NPT.0b013e31822a0026
Research Articles

Background and Purpose: Aerobic and strengthening exercises have been shown to benefit people with Parkinson's disease (PD) on the basis of highly structured, short-term, clinical protocols. This study extended previous research by investigating feasibility of an ongoing, community-based, group exercise program for people with PD on the basis of short-term (10 weeks) and long-term (14 months) data.

Methods: Twenty people with PD (Hoehn and Yahr stages I to III) participated in at least one of four 10-week sessions. Classes were held twice weekly for 1 hour and included strength, flexibility, and balance and walking exercises. Evaluations were done 1.5 hours after medication intake 1 week before and 1 week after each session. Gait speed, 6-Minute Walk test (6MWT), “Timed Up and Go” test, and grip strength were used to assess physical function. Analysis of short-term results were based on 18 participants (2 dropped out prior to posttest), and long-term results were based on 8 participants who started in the first session continued through the 14-month period.

Results: Attendance rates were moderate to high (73% overall). No injuries were reported. Wilcoxon signed ranks tests based on each participant's first 10-week session demonstrated significant improvements in 6MWT, and grip strength. Long-term participants showed significant improvements in grip strength, and a trend toward improved 6MWT. Gait speed and Timed Up and Go test did not change significantly in the short or long terms.

Discussion/Conclusions: Our community-based group exercise program was safe, feasible, and appears to be effective. While some measures showed no improvement, there was no evidence of decline. This is an important outcome for persons with progressive neurological disorders, and suggests community-based group exercise is a promising option for people with PD.

Department of Physical Therapy (R.A.S., Y.S.), Division of Athletic Training, Health and Exercise Science (D.K.S.), Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York

Correspondence: Rebecca A. States, MA, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (

Partially funded by the Brooklyn Parkinson's Group and by an LIU Provost's Health and Wellness Institute Grant.

Portions of this work were presented previously at the following meetings:

Salem, Y., States, R.A., Spierer, D.K., and Neesemann, C. (February 17–20, 2010). Feasibility and effects of an ongoing community exercise program for people with Parkinson's disease. American Physical Therapy Association's Combined Sections Meeting. San Diego, CA. (ID: 659331).

Spierer, D.K., Salem, Y., States, R.A., and Neesemann, C. (December 15, 2009). Short and long term benefits of a community-based exercise program for people with Parkinson's disease. XVIII WFN World Congress on Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders: Improving long-term outcomes. Miami Beach, FL (ID: A-179-0043-00738).

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© 2011 Neurology Section, APTA