A 2013 study conducted at a community-based program for persons with Parkinson’s, found that the Voice Aerobics® program, when offered over several weeks in a group setting, yielded a statistical difference in how persons with Parkinson’s self-rated voice loudness.

Since the fall of 2012 I have conducted a weekly class at a Community Center for persons with PD in Sarasota, FL. It is at this venue I conducted pre/post class surveys, the results which were shared as a poster at the World Parkinson Congress in 2013. This was my first attempt to elicit feedback from patients as to what perceived benefit they receive from performing the program.

The poster abstract presented at the 3rd World Parkinson Congress in Montreal, Canada, 2013, was entitled:

Benefits of a Community Based Whole Body Voice Strengthening Program for Persons With Parkinson’s

To view the poster please click ON THIS LINK.

Pre- and post class surveys were completed by participants in a weekly Voice Aerobics® class held at a community based center for persons with Parkinson’s disease in Sarasota, Florida. Results indicated that the Voice Aerobics® program, when offered in a group setting, yields a statistical difference in how persons with Parkinson’s self-rated voice loudness. Additional research looking at the benefits of the Voice Aerobics® program is being conducted.

When Voice Aerobics® was was created in 1999, it was designed to be an after-therapy program for persons with PD. I, Mary Spremulli, certified in LSVT since 1997,  found that patients often had difficulty retaining home instructions. So I would create audio-tapes of the daily variables, along with variations of my own home practice. I also found that I had a subgroup of patients who resisted the cue to “be loud,” stating, “I have never been loud, I have always been a quiet person.”

These statements went beyond the perceptual deficits we feel PD patients may have, but rather, were self-described personality traits. Those “soft spoken” persons appeared to be less resistant to the loud cue when I brought them into the aerobics room and coupled voice with exercise. So, that was the genesis of the program, and the DVD is a recording of the class created in 2008 in response to requests from many of the people who took the class.

The vocal function exercises are those types of things I had been doing for years, and are rooted in the voice literature. The “loud” voicing was derived from the work of Ramig et al. What makes the program unique, I believe, is coupling voice practice with movement.

The movements incorporate principles from physical therapy treatment of persons with PD, and include: focus on extensor muscle activation, motor learning principles of repetition and simple cues, and sensory awareness training . Movements are also designed to address rigidity of muscles in cervical, axial, appendicular, and facial muscles.

Statistically, there was an effect of increased loudness reported. There were also anecdotal reports of improved flexibility and other movements, and I hypothesize that up-regulating the system for voice may also have an effect on limbs. But, that is really the true stuff of a future research study, that hopefully will peak the interest of a colleague in a university setting, who has the knowledge and support to conduct this type of research.