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Can Riding a Bike Reduce Parkinson’s Symptoms?

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerNovember 16, 2017

Research has long suggested that physical activity can improve the quality of life for people living with chronic conditions.

Exercise has been proven to not only help reduce many Parkinson’s symptoms, including balance, flexibility, gait, grip strength and motor coordination, it can also slow down the progression of the disease.

How Does Regular Exercise Impact Quality of Life?

Researchers at the University of Southern California found that exercise causes the brain to be more resourceful and use dopamine more efficiently. They concluded that although physical activity does not increase the amount of dopamine used by the brain, the brain learns to use the dopamine it already has in a more effective way that reduces Parkinson’s symptoms and improves overall wellness.

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According to an article published by the Parkinson’s Foundation “one study showed that people with PD [Parkinson’s Disease] who exercised regularly for 2.5 hours a week had a smaller decline in mobility and quality of life over two years.”

While engaging in any level of physical activity is an improvement over a sedentary lifestyle, targeted exercises like riding a bike address specific Parkinson’s symptoms and have produced astonishing and exciting results.

Riding a Bike Could Reduce Parkinson’s Symptoms

Jay Alberts, a neuroscientist and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic discovered a groundbreaking connection between cycling and the reduction in symptoms for Parkinson’s patients.

Alberts first made this discovery in 2003 when investigating non-medical treatment options for people living with Parkinson’s disease. He rode a tandem bicycle across the state of Iowa with a female with Parkinson’s disease – after the ride, she reported feeling great and even remarked “it doesn’t feel like I have Parkinson’s disease.” Her handwriting (which is often affected as a result of the disease), had also improved. Three years later in 2006, Alberts repeated this experiment with another man with Parkinson’s, who had a bilateral deep brain stimulation implant to control his symptoms. The implant was turned off during their ride and within the first 15 miles, the patient reported that his tremors had completely subsided.

According to an article published by Fox News, the amazing results of the tandem bike experiments led to a more scientific eight-week tandem bike trial, where patients rode for 40 minutes, three times per week.

The results were astounding: overall, patients of the trial reported a 35% improvement in their symptoms for up to four hours post-exercise. Some people reported improvements in their sense of smell, while others experienced increased mobility in areas that had long been affected by the disease.

These initial findings have led to further trials and research surrounding the effectiveness of riding a bicycling to improve Parkinson’s symptoms. A 2010 study found that “forced exercise can also alleviate some of the cognitive problems associated with Parkinson’s,” and an article published by Research Features highlights a 2013 study which reinforced these findings: ‘forced exercise’ on a stationary bike improved connections in areas of the brain that are affected by Parkinson’s. Even more exciting, the study deduced that, “forced exercise was shown to be more effective than drug treatment at improving Parkinson’s symptoms.”

Although it’s not a cure for Parkinson’s disease, exercise has been proven to reduce symptoms, increase mental alertness and most importantly, provide hope for people who are living with the adverse effects of the disease.

Have you seen a reduction of Parkinson’s symptoms due to exercise in your or a senior loved one’s life? We’d like to hear more about your exercise routines in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler
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