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Aerobic Exercise Improves Mood, Cognition, and Language Function in Parkinson’s Disease: Results of a Controlled Study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2016

Lori J.P. Altmann*
Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Elizabeth Stegemöller
Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Audrey A. Hazamy
Department of Department of Speech Communication Arts and Sciences, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York
Jonathan P. Wilson
Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Midwestern University, Downers Grove, Illinois
Dawn Bowers
Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Michael S. Okun
Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Chris J. Hass
Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Lori J. P. Altmann, Box 100174, 1220 Center Drive, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0174. E-mail:


Objectives: Parkinson’s disease (PD) results in a range of non-motor deficits that can affect mood, cognition, and language, and many of these issues are unresponsive to pharmacological intervention. Aerobic exercise can improve mood and cognition in healthy older adults, although only a few studies have examined exercise effects on these domains in PD. The current study assesses the effects of aerobic exercise on aspects of cognition, mood, and language production in people with PD. Methods: This study compares the effects of aerobic exercise to stretch-balance training and a no-contact control group in participants with idiopathic PD. The aerobic and stretch-balance groups trained three times a week for 16 weeks, while controls continued normal activities. Outcome measures included disease severity, mood, cognition (speed of processing, memory, and executive function), and language production (picture descriptions). Cognition and language were assessed in single and dual task conditions. Results: Depressive symptoms increased only in the control group (p<.02). Executive function improved in the aerobic exercise group only in the single task (p=.007) and declined in controls in the dual task. Completeness of picture descriptions improved significantly more in the aerobic group than in the stretch-balance group (p<.02). Conclusions: Aerobic exercise is a viable intervention for PD that can be protective against increased depressive symptoms, and can improve several non-motor domains, including executive dysfunction and related aspects of language production. (JINS, 2016, 22, 878–889)

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Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2016 

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