Miriam Rafferty assists patient on Muscle and Strength Lab

COMPLETE: Processes to Increase Exercise Adherence and Sustainment in People with Parkinson's Disease

Posted By Laura Stoff


Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's and Parkinson's Foundation


Previous research has shown that exercise can slow declines in Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, barriers to exercise are significant among people with PD. This study utilizes a mixed methods approach to identify factors and life-changes associated with changes in exercise patterns among people with PD. The final products of this study include resources developed to help people with PD sustain their exercise.



(1) Identify disease-related factors associated with people who increase their exercise and people who decrease their exercise.

(2) Identify life changes and processes associated with exercise increases and decreases.

(3) Develop an implementation toolbox to facilitate exercise adherence and sustainment for people with PD.

Description of Study Activities


Using data from the Parkinson’s Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative (PF-QII) we categorized participants into “exercise increasers” and exercise decreasers.” We compared groups’ measures of mobility, quality of life, hospitalization, and falls. We then conducted phone interviews on a subset of participants from Northwestern to assess personal factors that influence the ability to increase and sustain exercise.



A change of 1.5 hours per week was identified as being associated with better health for increased exercise, and poorer health for decreased exercise. Overall, exercisers are younger, more recently diagnosed, and healthier. However, scores of PD-specific health related quality of life, assessed by the PDQ-39, significantly worsened in exercise increasers compared to decreasers.

Qualitative data from interviews suggests that people with PD rely heavily on their family and friends to trigger and support increasing exercise.


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