Researchers observe effect of exercise on non-motor Parkinson’s disease symptoms

Supervised exercise training may alleviate non-motor symptoms, as well as some motor symptoms, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, including cognitive function, according to a recent systematic review published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers from the Institute of Movement and Neurosciences at German Sport University in Cologne, Germany, and researchers from the VasoActive Research Group in the School of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, reviewed over 2,000 articles and identified 11 relevant studies published before March 2018. They looked at literature that included investigations of the effects of coordination exercise, resistance exercise, and aerobic exercise on domain-specific cognitive function in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The studies included a combined total of over five hundred patients with Parkinson’s disease who had a disease severity from 1 to 4 on the Hoehn & Yahr scale, a rating system to describe the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

In five trials, a significant between-group effect size was identified for tests of specific cognitive domains, including a positive effect of aerobic exercise on memory and executive function, as well as combined resistance and coordination exercise on global cognitive function, according to the study abstract. Two trials found a significant between-group effect size, which led to improved executive function compared with that of non-exercising control subjects.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and balance, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Patients may experience tremor, trouble moving and walking, and postural instability. Nearly one million people will be living with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. by 2020, the organization says.

While exercise is widely acknowledged to help with the movement aspects of Parkinson’s disease, little is known about the efficacy of exercise to improve non-motor symptoms such as cognitive function, the researchers say. However, the researchers concluded that all modes of exercise as associated with improve cognitive function in patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to the study abstract. Aerobic exercise, they say, tended to best improve memory, though a clear effect of exercise mode was not identified.