07/02/2014 04:00 PM EDT
Study found it improved gait, stiffness, mood, attention and overall quality of life
"The benefits of exercise that apply to a normal, healthy person are even greater in Parkinson's disease because it also affects the symptoms of the disease. A person with Parkinson's will get all the benefits that a normal, healthy person does, plus it will modify the symptoms of their disease," said Dr. Daniel Corcos, a professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago. Corcos was not involved in the new study.
On the second round of testing, participants showed significant improvements in their aerobic fitness. They were also able to walk more quickly and with better balance. And, they experienced less stiffness than they had before the study started, the study authors noted.
In addition, some measures of brain function improved. The participants performed better on a test that gauges how well people can direct their attention. With regard to mood, the patients also reported less fatigue and depression, and a more positive outlook on life.