Daily Physical Activity Reduces Parkinson’s Disease Risk

Published in Neurology

Physical Activity and the Risk for Parkinson’s Disease

Brain: A Journal of Neurology

deep brain activityPhysical exercise has been associated with neuroprotective effects in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system. To examine the impact of physical activity on Parkinson’s disease risk prospectively, we followed 43 368 individuals who provided extensive information on physical activity at baseline. We estimated hazard ratios with 95% confidence intervals using Cox proportional hazards regression. During an average of 12.6 years of follow-up, 286 incident Parkinson’s disease cases were identified. In males, there was an inverse association with Parkinson’s disease for total physical activity (hazard ratio 0.55, 95% confidence interval 0.35-0.87 for medium versus low level), for sum of household, commuting and leisure time exercise (hazard ratio 0.53, 95% confidence interval 0.33-0.85 for high versus low level), and for household and commuting physical activity specifically (hazard ratio 0.50, 95% confidence interval 0.31-0.81 for >6 versus <2 h per week). No association was observed for leisure time exercise or occupational physical activity with Parkinson’s disease, among either males or females. Meta-analysis of the present study and five previous prospective studies showed a pooled hazard ratio of 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.57-0.78) for highest versus lowest physical activity level. Our results indicate that a medium level of physical activity lowers Parkinson’s disease risk.


  • This very large cohort study of 43,368 individuals provided extensive information on physical activity at baseline in a Swedish population and evaluated the association between physical activity and Parkinson’s disease (PD) risk. The individuals were followed for an average of 12.6 years. There was a significant inverse association of PD incidence with total physical activity (HR, 0.55). Household activity and commuting exercise had the highest impact (HR, 0.50). In contrast, leisure time exercise and occupational activity were not associated with a significant reduction in risk. Data from this and five prior studies produced a pooled HR of 0.66 in highest vs lowest overall physical activity groups. The effect in this study was overall stronger in men than in women.
  • The results suggest that medium levels of physical activity, not limited just to leisurely exercise, significantly reduced the risk for PD, particularly in men, with great potential implications for community health.

– Codrin Lungu, MD


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