How Riding a Bike Helps Seniors Alleviate Symptoms of Parkinson’s

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Millions of adults in the United States live with the neurological disorder known as Parkinson’s disease. As the disorder progresses, seniors experience difficulty with physical movement and commonly develop involuntary tremors. Healthcare providers often recommend exercise to maintain flexibility and mobility. However, researchers from Cleveland Clinic found cycling was a preferred means of exercise for symptom reduction.

Accidental Discovery during a Charity Bike Ride 

In 2003, biomedical engineer Dr. Jay Alberts participated in a charity bike ride across Iowa to benefit Parkinson’s research. During the journey, he rode a tandem bike accompanied by a woman with Parkinson’s. Whatever speed he pedaled, his partner followed automatically. After pedaling at a speed of 80 to 90 repetitions per minute, Alberts’s passenger discovered her Parkinson’s symptoms subsided. 

Three years later, Dr. Alberts took another tandem bike journey, but this time, he was accompanied by a man with Parkinson’s who regularly experienced severe involuntary tremors that required a surgically implanted device to maintain control over his arm and hand functions. As the ride progressed, the passenger was able to turn the device off due to the absence of his symptoms.

Currently, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but seniors who need help managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s can benefit from professional in-home care. Seniors who want to remain healthy as they age can benefit in a variety of ways when they receive professional home care service. Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one accomplish daily tasks, prevent illness, and focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

The Cleveland Clinic Study 

In 2009, Alberts was joined by other researchers who were determined to evaluate the effects of cycling on people with Parkinson’s. The study involved 26 people with Parkinson’s, aged 30 to 75. Half rode a stationary bicycle at their own pace for 40 minutes three times each week. The other half rode at a forced rate of 80 to 90 rpms for the same length of time. 

After eight weeks, those riding the motorized Theracycle experienced a reduction in tremors, a heightened sense of smell, and enhanced mobility. Two weeks after the research ended, those who participated in forced cycling continued experiencing a reduction in symptoms. 

Before, during, and after the cycling evaluation began, all of the subjects underwent MRI imaging studies to assess brain activity and neuron communication. As the exercise regimen progressed, images indicated the amount of activity and connectivity in the motor cortex and the rear region of the thalamus also increased.

Helping a senior exercise and make healthy lifestyle choices can be a difficult task, especially if he or she has Parkinson’s disease. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Philadelphia, PA, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity.

Sustained Results 

Since the original study, more than 150 people with Parkinson’s have taken part in Theracycle research and experienced similar results. Studies are ongoing to determine why and how forced exercise reduces Parkinson’s symptoms. 

When a person with Parkinson’s stops taking prescription medication, his or her symptoms begin reappearing within a few hours. However, people with Parkinson’s who stop Theracycle therapy experience symptomatic relief for weeks. 

Dr. Alberts doesn’t recommend stopping medication or turning off surgical devices. However, he does believe forced cycling could greatly benefit people with Parkinson’s. The researchers also plan on developing studies to assess the possible benefits of exercise using other physical activities. 

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