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J Parkinsons Dis. 2012;2(3):241-7. doi: 10.3233/JPD-2012-012111.

Cardiovascular responses during a submaximal exercise test in patients with Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Neurology, Nijmegen Centre of Evidence Based Practice, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) are physically less active than controls, and autonomic dysfunction may contribute to this sedentary lifestyle. Specifically, an altered cardiovascular response to physical effort may restrict physical activities.


To assess the cardiovascular responses to a submaximal exercise test in PD patients and controls, 546 sedentary PD patients and 29 sedentary healthy controls performed the ├ůstrand-Rhyming submaximal cycle exercise test.


Average heart rate was used to estimate maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max). Variables that may affect submaximal activity in PD patients, including disease severity, fatigue, and level of physical activity in daily life, were recorded.


Fewer PD patients (46%) completed the submaximal exercise test successfully than the controls (86%). The estimated VO2max of patients with a successful test was 34% lower than the controls (p < 0.001). Multivariate regression analyses revealed that higher body weight, lower systolic blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, and lower maximal workload were associated with an increased risk of an inadequate heart rate increase during submaximal exercise (R2 = 27%). PD patients with a successful submaximal exercise test had lower estimated VO2max values than controls.


Importantly, half of the PD patients had an inadequate heart rate increase during submaximal exercise, which was likely caused by cardiac sympathetic denervation leading to autonomic dysfunction. PD patients should therefore be screened to identify their limitations in exercise performance. Caution should be applied when prescribing beta blockers, as they might limit physical activities further.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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