New research suggests that physical activity could help improve quality of life for those living with Parkinson's disease.

A new in-depth review has found that exercise and physical activity could have benefits for those living with Parkinson's disease, despite the progressive nature of the condition.

Carried out by researchers from Université du Québec in Montreal, Canada, the team reviewed 106 studies from the past 30 years to look at the effect of physical activity on the health of people living with Parkinson's Disease (PD).

The review focused on four main categories: physical capacities (e.g., strength, flexibility), physical and cognitive functional capacities (e.g., gait, mobility, cognitive functions), clinical symptoms of PD (e.g., rigidity, tremor, posture alterations), and psychosocial aspects of life (quality of life and health management).

The studies showed that physical activity was most effective in improving physical capacity, such as limb strength, endurance, flexibility, range of motion, motor control, and metabolic function, and physical and cognitive functional capacity, with more than 55% of the studies finding positive effects in these two main categories.

Sixty-seven per cent of the studies also found improvements in subcategories such as upper limb strength.

Although improvements in cognitive function were not as strong as those found in physical capacity, the researchers did point out that only nine studies looked at the effect of physical activity on cognitive improvement for PD patients, and so further research in this area is warranted.

However when looking at the effect of exercise on in the remaining two categories, the clinical symptoms of PD and psychosocial aspects of life, the results were less clear, with only 50 per cent of the studies reporting positive effects on the clinical symptoms, and only and 45.3 per cent on the psychosocial aspects of life.

The team still believe the results confirm that physical activity benefits those living with PD, especially when it comes to improving gait and balance and reducing risks of falls, and concluded that doctors and health professionals should feel more confident about prescribing physical activity as a way of improving the quality of life for patients.

However the authors also pointed out that the physical activity undertaken in the studies varied widely, as did the duration, with physical activity interventions ranging from 2 to 96 weeks, and frequency from once every two weeks to 7 days a week. This variation means the team were unable to comment on which activities are best for those with PD, although they did observe that walking, regardless of volume and intensity, seemed to provide the best results.

"Exercise should be a life-long commitment to avoid physical and cognitive decline, and our research shows that this is also true for individuals with PD," commented Christian Duval, one of the study's co-authors, with co-investigator Martine Lauzé, adding, "Fortunately, studies show that all people may benefit from being more physically active, no matter their age and condition, it is never too late to start!"

The review can be found online published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.