The Role of Aerobic Exercise in Improving Motor Outcomes in Stroke and Parkinson's Disease

Published by Ohio Physical Therapy Association and APTA of Maryland


It is hypothesized that aerobic exercise (AE) temporarily increases levels of neurotransmitters and neurotrophic growth factors, enhancing neuroplasticity. It is theorized that this phenomenon could be exploited to improve motor outcomes in individuals with neurological disease. We have conducted several clinical trials examining the effects of intensive AE on motor recovery in Parkinson’s disease and stroke. The results of these trials have suggested that intensive AE may improve gait and upper extremity motor outcomes, in addition to modestly improving cardiovascular fitness. Improvements in global motor performance indicate that high intensity AE is likely enhancing central nervous system function. Importantly, the clinical rating improvements often persisted eight weeks after ending treatment. We will report the results of these studies, present a review of current literature, and discuss how to translate these encouraging findings into clinical practice.

Upon completion of the course, the attendee will be able to:

  1. Describe the potential mechanism underlying the neurophysiologic benefits of high intensity aerobic exercise in individuals with stroke and Parkinson’s disease based on animal and human models.
  2. Describe methodology associated with applying aerobic exercise as an antecedent to task practice.
  3. Discuss the motor and non-motor outcomes following a forced exercise and voluntary exercise paradigm in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and chronic stroke.
  4. Integrate methodology discussed in lecture to translate aerobic exercise intervention safely to the clinical environment.

Sara Davidson, PTA
Sara Davidson, PTA graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assisting from Lorain County Community College in 2011. After gaining clinical experience in inpatient settings, she transitioned to full-time research at...More
Susan Linder, PT, DPT, NCS
Susan Linder, PT, DPT, NCS is a staff scientist in the Neural Control lab at the Cleveland Clinic and an adjunct professor at Cleveland State University. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from D’Youville College in 2011, a master’s...More
Anson Rosenfeldt, PT, DPT, NCS, MBA
Anson Rosenfeldt, PT, DPT, NCS, MBA graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Belmont University in 2009, and her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Dayton in 2005 and earned her Master’s in Business...More

Originally Published

June 9, 2020

Program Titles and Supporting Materials

This program contains the following components:

  • Video Presentation
  • Slide Deck Copy

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Technical Requirements

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If applicable, you may obtain credit in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously for this program (see pending/approved list below). If electing credit for this program, registrants in jurisdictions not listed below will receive a Certificate of Completion that may or may not meet credit requirements in other jurisdictions. Where applicable, credit will be only awarded to a paid registrant completing all the requirements of the program as determined by the selected accreditation authority.

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