Biking to Help Control Parkinson's Disease

Physical therapy and exercise is well documented as a positive treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Just a few minutes of bicycling creates lasting improvements in motor functions; studies have shown that 40 minutes of exercise three times a week at a certain heart rate can reduce symptoms of Parkinson's by up to 35 percent, and brain scans of Parkinson's patients showed increased brain activation similar to treatment with the common Parkinson's disease medication levodopa.

The two critical elements of this treatment are high cadence and forced pedaling. Parkinson's patients normally pedal at 40 to 60 RPM. The researchers forced the patients to pedal at a sustained rate of 80-90 RPM for 40 minutes, three days a week. The results were very impressive, with up to 35% improvement in patient motor function. The positive effects of bike riding last as long as four hours after exercising. The researchers concluded that forced cycling appears to boost nerve connections between the primary motor cortex and thalamus.

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