Gender Gap in Exercise Research in Individuals with Parkinson's Disease


Preeti Oza: 0000-0001-5049-2961


Physical Therapy


Purpose/Hypothesis: Women with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience different symptoms, different responses to dopaminergic medications and have different challenges to healthcare access, as compared to men. It is unclear if exercise research has given due consideration to inclusion of women and contrasted the effects of exercise protocols in men and women. The purpose of this review was to assess the representation of men and women in published research related to exercise for individuals with PD. The second purpose was to gather the available evidence on gender differences in responses to exercise between men and women with PD and explore trends based on type of exercise.

Number of Subjects: N/A

Materials and Methods: Peer-reviewed articles published in English language since year 2000 were collected from CINAHL, Epistemonikos, PEDro and PubMed, using search terms ‘exercise’ and ‘Parkinson*’. Methods section provided information of gender inclusion, while results section of the published articles provided information of gender differences to exercise. Two researchers selected articles reporting gender information for further analysis. Sackett Level of Evidence established the methodological quality.

Results: A PRISMA strategy utilizing key words identified 1261 articles. Screening criteria determined that 875 articles related to exercise research. Thirty-five articles of the 875 reviewed (4%) provided gender inclusion information in the methods section; of which seven articles (20%) reported gender based results. The articles reporting gender differences to exercises were case studies with small sample sizes. The case studies investigated effects of aerobic exercises and demonstrated that aerobic exercises may help improve cognitive and executive function similarly in men and women with PD.

Conclusions: There are major gaps when it comes to gender specific knowledge and perspectives in exercise research for individuals with PD. There is lack of reporting of gender inclusion in published research articles. Researchers are either not including subjects from both genders in their studies or are not reporting gender specific results despite including men and women in their research studies.

Clinical Relevance: This review highlights the historically unmet research needs of women with PD, to elicit action in addressing these needs in future research and care. Before setting up resources, there needs to be evidence to ensure that therapies help all individuals with PD, including both genders. Understanding that women and men with PD may have different responses to exercises will enable improved exercise programs and resources for them. If the scientific community consistently reports gender differences of their research trials, there will be lower gender gap in evidence-based resources. Consideration of differences between men and women with PD, to exercise effects and benefits will facilitate better-informed physical therapy and healthcare decisions.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) - Combined Sections Meeting

Conference Dates

February 12-15, 2020

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