Parkinson's Disease


Motivational Interviewing and Physical Activity in Parkinson’s Disease

Why is this study needed?


The goal of this application is to test the efficacy of a 6-month telephone-based motivational interviewing coaching intervention and a web-based application for self-monitoring to improve physical activity in persons with Parkinson’s disease. Exercise plays a critical role in the management of chronic illness and in promoting healthy aging. Only 28% of US adults 50 years of age or older with disabilities engage in physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended levels. There is a substantial body of evidence demonstrating the benefit of exercise on Parkinson’s disease (PD)-related disability and some data pointing to potential neuroprotective effects of exercise leading to less loss of motor function. Previous research has found that persons with PD are approximately one-third less active than older adults without PD. Barriers to physical activity cited by persons with PD include low outcome expectation, lack of time and fear of falling. There is a need to help persons with PD identify strategies to overcome these barriers.

How will this study help patients and rehabilitation stakeholders?


The target population that will benefit from this work is people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder that affects up to 1 million people in the United States. It has no known cure. PD results in disabling symptoms of rigidity, bradykinesia (slow movement), resting tremor, and postural instability. The annual economic impact of PD in the United States is estimated at $10.8 billion. The number of individuals with PD is expected to double by 2030. Persons with PD face significant declines in mobility and activities of daily living resulting in loss of independence and compromised health-related quality of life. There is a need and an opportunity to help persons with PD increase their level of physical activity and ultimately improve their balance and quality of life.

What are the project aims?


  • Develop a web-based application, accessible via smartphone, tablet, and computer for self-monitoring of physical activity for a population of persons with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). 
  • Test the efficacy of the Motivational Interviewing (MI) intervention and the web-based self-monitoring application for improving physical activity (primary outcome), balance (secondary outcome), and quality of life (secondary outcome) in a factorial-designed randomized controlled trial of 64 persons with PD.
  • Assess persistent effects of the interventions at 9 months (3 months’ post intervention) in persons with PD.

How will the project aims be achieved?


The study is an investigation of motivational interviewing compared to education (control), a web-based application for self-monitoring and both motivational interviewing and web-based application for self-monitoring to improve physical activity in Parkinson’s disease. We will Convene two focus groups of persons with PD to provide input into the interventions including the web-based application development. Based on input from focus groups and the research staff we will develop the web-based application. We will then recruit 64 participants to participate in the randomized control trial. They will be provided with a 6-month intervention. We will assess covariates, physical activity, balance, and quality of life at 3 months and 6 months as well as 9 months (3 months’ post intervention).

Funded by:


National Institute on Disability, Independent Livingand Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)

What is the duration of the project?


September 30, 2015 – September 29, 2018

Primary Project Staff


Principal Investigator:

Linda Ehrlich-Jones, Ph.D., RN, Assistant Director, Center for Rehabilitation Outcomes Research

Co – Investigators:

Dr. Danny Bega, M.D. Assistant Professor Neurology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Amy Eisenstein, Ph.D., Director of the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute at CJE SeniorLife,

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Project Manager:

Allison Todd B.A.


Contact Information


For research:

Dr. Linda Ehrlich-Jones


For members of the media:


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