Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick Kitzman

Second Advisor

Dr. Camille Skubik-Peplaski


Neurological disorders are currently the leading source of disability in the United States with Parkinson’s disease (PD) having the fastest growing incidence rate (Abate et al., 2017). PD is the second most common degenerative disease in older adults above 60 years old (Tysnes & Storstein, 2017) and epidemiology reports predict that the number of PD cases has doubled to 6 million since 1990 (Dorsey, Sherer, et al., 2018) It is estimated that PD prevalence will continue to rise with a projected 60,000 new cases in the United States by 2030 (Dorsey, Elbaz, et al., 2018) and has the potential to reach more than 12 million cases worldwide by 2040 (Dorsey, Sherer, et al., 2018).

PD is an incurable, progressive neurological disorder, that presents with both motor and non-motor symptoms that effects one’s functional mobility potential. The multifactor impact of PD, including both motor and non-motor features, has a negative effect on functional mobility potential for individuals living with PD. Walking, a component of functional mobility, becomes more difficult as the disease progresses. A once previously learned automated task, is compromised secondary to a variety of motor deficits. In addition, non-motor symptoms can worsen motor complications, gait difficulties, disability, and self-perceived health status (Dissanayaka et al., 2010; Pontone et al., 2009; Yamanishi et al., 2013). Due to the various components of this disease, it can be difficult to choose which interventions would be most beneficial for individuals with PD that are presenting with walking problems.

The overall purpose of this research is to first explore the exercise habits of individuals with PD to understand what type of exercise is being utilized to combat this progressive neurodegenerative disorder that currently has no cure. It will aim to understand how intense individuals are perceiving their workouts and what barriers exist to PD symptom management. Neuroplastic fundamentals suggest that specificity of selected exercise, repetition of activities and intensity of work can all positively impact direct recovery after a neurological diagnosis. Furthermore, incorporating exercise at higher intensities has been established as an intervention to improve functional mobility for individuals with stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury but little is known about its impact with the PD population. This research will build on the knowledge gained about current exercise habits and couple it with current best evidence to develop an intervention that targets improving clinically meaningful outcomes with goals to address the multifactorial components of PD.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)