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What is Neuroactive Exercise?

If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the likelihood is that you’ve been told to stay active. Maintaining good strength and aerobic fitness is always important. But when it comes to specifically exercising for Parkinson’s Disease management, is there an optimal way that you should be training?

The short answer is yes. When the goal of your exercise is to delay the progression of your Parkinson’s Disease, it’s important to focus on Neuroactive exercise. This means, any exercise that creates neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to rewire and create new connections and pathways. 

Neuroactive exercise refers to how challenging an activity is for your brain. Let’s say you walk the dog twice a day, or go on a particular cycle ride once a week. Maybe there’s a group exercise class you do regularly. You might have even done a marathon every year since your early 20s! All these things are great for your physical fitness, but because they’re part of your regular routine, they don’t necessarily provide the variety that is needed for neuroplasticity. We would refer to this type of exercise as Neuropassive. 

Neuroactive exercise is generally more intense, challenging and can involve dual tasks such as moving with cognitive exercises or moving with music/audio cues. Ideally, it will also tackle some of the specific symptoms that you experience with Parkinson’s Disease, such as smaller-scaled movements (bradykinesia) or issues with gait (walking).  

These are some of the key principles for programming neuroactive exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease: 

Power – High force to scale up your movement amplitude!

High Effort – At least an 8/10 effort level to obtain the correct output and make brain changes

Challenging – Both physically and cognitively

Specific – The exercise you do needs to be specific to your symptoms, which are different for everyone.

Salience – There must be a purpose behind why you’re doing the exercise

Fun – how else will you stick to it?

Frequency – Exercise should be done on a daily basis. PD doesn’t rest – so frequency is key!

If you’re at a loss on how to incorporate Neuroactive exercise into your routine, why not contact an appropriately qualified Personal Trainer, Physio, or Exercise Physiologist, who can help to answer your questions and come up with a program that works for you.