Cortical and motor responses to acute forced exercise in Parkinson's disease.
Introduction. Based on anecdotal reports of improved olfaction following aerobic exercise, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of an 8-week aerobic exercise program on olfaction function in individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). Methods. Thirty-eight participants with idiopathic PD were randomized to either an aerobic exercise group (n = 23) or a nonexercise control group (n = 15). The aerobic exercise group completed a 60-minute cycling session three times per week for eight weeks while the nonexercise control group received no intervention. All participants completed the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) at baseline, end of treatment, and a four-week follow up. Results. Change in UPSIT scores between the exercise and nonexercise groups from baseline to EOT (p = 0.01) and from baseline to EOT+4 (p = 0.02) favored the aerobic exercise group. Individuals in the nonexercise group had worsening olfaction function over time, while the exercise group was spared from decline. Discussion. The difference in UPSIT scores suggested that aerobic exercise may be altering central nervous system pathways that regulate the physiologic or cognitive processes controlling olfaction in individuals with PD. While these results provide promising preliminary evidence that exercise may modify the disease process, further systematic evaluation is necessary.