What is Parkinson’s

Man with Parkinson's disease


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.  The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain; the cause of this cell death is unknown.  

Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related which include:

  • shaking,
  • rigidity
  • slowness of movement
  • difficulty with walking and gait


  • Later, thinking and behavioral problems may arise.  Dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease.   Depression is the most common psychiatric symptom. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems.  Parkinson’s disease is more common in older people, with most cases occurring after the age of 50.

The main motor symptoms are collectively called parkinsonism or a “parkinsonian syndrome”. Parkinson’s disease is often defined as a parkinsonian syndrome that is idiopathic (having no known cause), although some atypical cases have a genetic origin. Many risks and protective factors have been investigated: the clearest evidence is for an increased risk of PD in people exposed to certain pesticides and a reduced risk in tobacco smokers. The pathology of the disease is characterized by the accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein into inclusions called Lewy bodies in neurons and from insufficient formation and activity of dopamine produced in certain neurons within parts of the midbrain. Lewy bodies are the pathological hallmark of the idiopathic disorder, and the distribution of the Lewy bodies throughout the Parkinsonian brain varies from one individual to another. The anatomical distribution of the Lewy bodies is often directly related to the expression and degree of the clinical symptoms of each individual.  Diagnosis of typical cases is mainly based on symptoms, with tests such as neuroimaging being used for confirmation.

Exercise effects at managing and reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s

Is there hope for the person who has Parkinson’s.  I say yes.  People who have Parkinson’s respond very well to exercise and can help manage and reduce many of the symptoms through increasing the dopamine efficiency in the body. Most people with Parkinson’s are on medication to help manage and reduce their Parkinson’s symptoms. Through working with a number of people with Parkinson’s over the years I have personally found that the medication helps tremendously, however, when a person incorporates regular exercise their bodies function much better. One of my client’s doctor said exercise is one of the best things one can do who has Parkinson’s.

I’ve had many clients over the years walk, move, and live better when they exercise.  A client of mine who was in his 50’s had Parkinson’s for over 15 years.  He was moving poorly, freezing, and falling regularly.  He would walk once in a while.  When he started exercising with me a couple of times a week as well as exercised on he started moving better, freezing, and falling less. He became more in control of his body.  I’ve seen this with my other clients as well as many other people.  Exercise is very effective at helping a person live a higher quality of life with Parkinson’s and reduce their symptoms.