Exercise can improve non-motor symptoms of PD (hint: mental/cognitive function)

A recent study reminds us that exercise does more than just improve motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, such as tremor, gait disturbances, and postural instability. Exercise can improve non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, specifically mental and cognitive function.

According to this study:

Up to 57% of patients suffering from PD develop mild cognitive impairment within five years of their initial diagnosis, and if they survive more than ten years, the majority will eventually develop dementia.

This study reviewed earlier studies of exercise and Parkinson’s Disease.

They found 5 studies that had significant group size and included cognitive testing. There was a positive effect of aerobic exercise on memory and executive function. Combined resistance and coordination exercise helped global cognitive function. Two trials showed that coordination exercise led to improved executive function compared with that of non-exercising control subjects.

They concluded:

All modes of exercise are associated with improved cognitive function in individuals with PD. Aerobic exercise tended to best improve memory; however, a clear effect of exercise mode was not identified.

Personally, I hadn’t considered this aspect of exercise. In the short term, people with PD tend to see mobility issues as having the biggest impact on quality of life. But long term, if the majority of us are going to develop dementia, that has a much larger impact on quality of life. This review study is a good reminder on the importance of exercise.

Study press release: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/ip-eci030419.php

Study details: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30741688

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