The Neuroprotective Benefits of Daily Exercise

Research-based exercise interventions improve health-related quality of life (HRQL) and mobility in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise has a wide range of effects on the human brain. It can increase brain function, enhance memory and recall, repair damaged brain cells, and promote a healthier balance of neurochemicals. While most of us focus on the benefits of exercise for our bodies, you have to remember that physical activity is also vital for a healthy brain. Whether you lift weights, run, cycle, or walk, daily exercise will do wonders to keep your brain working for years to come.

A study published in IOS Press reinforces this with its latest findings. According to the research, just 2.5 hours of exercise per week can protect the brain from Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a very serious condition that progresses over the course of months or years, resulting in impaired mobility, decreased quality of life, and eventually death. Most people immediately think of hand tremors, but the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease includes rigid muscles, slowed movement, loss of automatic movements, writing and speech changes, and impaired posture and balance.

But researchers from Northwestern University and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago found that a bit of daily exercise could drastically reduce the effects of Parkinson’s. The scientists examined data from more than 3,400 patients with Parkinson’s. They found that those who engaged in 150 minutes of exercise per week had a much better health-related quality of life than those who didn’t.

The regular exercisers had greater mobility, reduced symptoms, and overall better health. Their quality of life declined as a result of their disease, but at a slower rate than those who didn’t exercise. Those who began the study as regular exercisers saw a significant slowing of their Parkinson’s decline, but even those who began exercising after the commencement of the study still benefitted.

The good news: any exercise is good for you. The study didn’t test different types of exercise but concluded that all forms of exercise (moderate to vigorous) can be effective in reducing Parkinson’s symptoms. As long as the participants hit that 150 minutes per week number, they had a better health-related quality of life.

Bonus: The study also found that those with advanced Parkinson’s Disease saw the most visible benefits once they included exercise in their daily routine. Just adding 30 minutes of daily exercise led to significant improvement in mobility and quality of life for the Parkinson’s patients.


1. Miriam R. Rafferty, Peter N. Schmidt, Sheng T. Luo, Kan Li, Connie Marras, Thomas L. Davis, Mark Guttman, Fernando Cubillos, Tanya Simuni. “Regular Exercise, Quality of Life, and Mobility in Parkinson’s Disease: A Longitudinal Analysis of National Parkinson Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative Data.” Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, 2017; 7(1):193. 

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