A podcast about health, science, nutrition, aging, and fitness.


#060 Dr. Giselle Petzinger on Exercise for Parkinson's Disease

Giselle Petzinger

Giselle Petzinger, MD, an associate professor of Neurology at the University of Southern California, studies the extensive effects of how different types of exercise, in particular skill-based exercise, can affect the clinical outcome for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Petzinger's work focuses on understanding how to promote brain repair after injury, particularly in the context of Parkinson's disease. She is currently investigating ways to enhance neuroplasticity in a preclinical model of the disease. She has examined the role of exercise in Parkinson's disease, with emphasis on how different types of exercise affect distinct regions of the brain. Her work has implications for improving the quality of life of patients diagnosed with the neurological disorder — a condition for which there is no cure.


In this episode, you'll discover:

  • 00:06:57 What is Parkinson’s disease?
  • 00:11:57 How symptoms of Parkinson’s disease generally only appear when ~50% of dopamine-secreting neurons in substantia nigra are lost. 1
  • 00:14:57 How other circuits in the brain can compensate for the loss of function of the substantia nigra.
  • 00:18:37 Prevalence and hereditary risk factors of Parkinson’s disease. 
  • 00:21:25 How epidemiological studies have linked increased Parkinson’s disease risk with exposure to pesticides, herbicides, solvents, and certain heavy metals such as manganese. 1 
  • 00:26:57 How exercise can lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. 1 2 3
  • 00:35:38 How skill-based exercise, such as yoga, Tai chi, boxing, tango or skateboarding may play a special role in ameliorating some of the effects of the disease by driving circuit-specific effects, by creating top-down cognitive challenge for skills involved in a patient's movement through space.
  • 00:47:49 How serum BDNF significantly increases in Parkinson’s patients after 1 month of treadmill exercise and why this might mean better cognitive function. 1 2 
  • 00:58:33 How treadmill exercise with heart rate 80-85% maximum for at least 3x per week slowed the progression of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. 1
  • 01:01:31 Why exercise may not fully replace the use of medications.
  • 01:09:58 How the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has some preclinical evidence suggesting it may reduce motor-symptoms and dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease. 1 2 3 4
  • 01:12:12 How patients with Parkinson’s disease have higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers and how this might contribute to the disease. 1


If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the full show notes here:

Join over 300,000 people and get the latest distilled information on parkinson's disease straight to your inbox weekly:

Become a FoundMyFitness premium member to get access to exclusive episodes, emails, live Q+A’s with Rhonda and more:



 2020-10-14  1h18m