Care in Motion

Living with Parkinson's Disease: How to improve your quality of life

April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness month.


Nearly 60,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year and nearly 1,000,000 people have the disease.1 Parkinson's disease (PD) is a disorder of the brain and central nervous system that leads to movement deficits. The substantia nigra, a specific area of the brain that produces a chemical called dopamine is primarily affected. Dopamine is thought to be the chemical that controls movement and the initiation of movement.


Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for people with PD. Known benefits of regular exercise include improved control of regular daily movements, improved flexibility, improvements in balance and overall increase in energy levels, amongst main other.1


Many of us struggle to make exercise a regular part of our lives; people living with Parkinson's are no different. 2 I recently read an article titled "Factors Associated with Exercise in Parkinson Disease". The article aimed to identify factors that are associated with why people with Parkinson's Disease exercise regularly or not. After reflecting on the article, I came up with a few take-a-ways that can help you or someone you know with Parkinson's. 


This article concluded that disease severity is NOT a primary factor that influences people with PD to exercise. More so, it found self-efficacy to be strongly associated with whether or not people with Parkinson's disease exercise regularly. Self-efficacy is defined as "people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance, which determine how they feel, think, motivate themselves and behave".2  In other words, how do you picture yourself and how do you feel you are able perform your desired activities. With regards to exercise, the authors defined self-efficacy as "a person's belief in capabilities to overcome personal, social, and environmental barriers to exercising".2 Another way to think of this is do you feel strong enough and confident in yourself enough to be motivated to perform exercise regularly.


When you or someone you love with Parkinson's disease is trying to make the commitment to exercise, it is extremely important that not only their health care providers, but also the people around them are supportive and empower them to be committed to exercise and a healthier lifestyle. Some recommendations are:

1) Find a group of other people that exercise regularly.

2) Start slow and be safe - if you set yourself up for success, you will improve your self-efficacy and may be more willing to exercise regularly.

3) Be sure your health care providers are positive influences in your life. A positive attitude of those who surround you can really make you feel better!


If you have Parkinson's, be conscious of the people you come in contact with, as their attitude can greatly impact your well-being. If you are a friend of a family member of somebody with Parkinson's be supportive, help your friend get motivated, offer to assist them when they are trying to become active. Little changes can go a long way!


Happy Parkinson's Awareness Month! At Sports PT, we have been having a Penny War all month to donate towards research in Parkinson's disease! Stayed tuned for the update on the game and how much money we were able to raise!


  1. Parkinson's Health.  Accessed on 29 April 2012.


  1. Ellis T. et al.  Factors Associated with Exercise Behavior in People with Parkinson Disease. Physical Therapy. 2011: 91:1838-1848.



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Care in Motion Contributors:

Shane Connors, PT, MSPT, DPT Shane is a graduate of Ithaca College where he received his masters and doctorate degrees in physical therapy. Shane grew up in Bethlehem, NY where he was a member of the basketball, baseball and cross-country teams for the eagles. He enjoys working at SportsPT due to wide variety of equipment and interventions that he gets to use everyday and how his job improves his patients' quality of life for the long run.

Alison Synakowski, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS Alison Synakowski is a Certified Orthopaedic Specialist in Physical Therapy and the Facility Manager at Sports Physical Therapy. She enjoys seeing all types of conditions, not specific to athletes, and creates a specific and unique program to suit the needs of each individual patient. She is a current member of the American Physical Therapy Association and truly focused on improving awareness of the many benefits of PT.

Jennifer Szymanski, PT, DPT, ATC Jenniferjoined the Sports PT team in 2008 and excels in this out-patient orthopedic setting. Prior to this, she worked and found enjoyment in the acute in-patient setting for 3 years. She graduated from Mercyhurst College with a Bachelors in Sports Medicine and became a Certified Athletic Trainer. While attending Gannon University to obtain her Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Physical Therapy, she was the athletic trainer for the University's Women's Volleyball and Lacrosse teams.

Zoe Devito, MSPT Zoe J. DeVito graduated with an undergraduate in Clinical Exercise Physiology and Masters in Physical Therapy from Boston University in 1999. She has worked for this company since graduating and started the Saratoga facility of Sports PT in late 2000. Her philosophy includes a "hands on" approach to PT with special interest in spine, post surgical, postural and soft tissue dysfunctions. At this time she is employed per diem while raising a family.

Jeff Fear, PT, MPT Originally from Saratoga, Jeff graduated from Notre Dame College in Manchester, NH in 2001 with a Masters of Physical Therapy. He has over 10 years of outpatient orthopedic experience, is an APTA-certified clinical instructor, and has a special interest working with patients with shoulder injuries. What he enjoys most about his job is working with different types of people with different types of injuries everyday as well as being apart of a succesful team!