Indoor cycling helps Parkinson’s patients, new study finds

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Riding on an indoor bike three days per week appears to significantly decrease Parkinson’s symptoms, according to a new study published in the Lancet Neurology.

“The effect of cycling is about the same as the improvement we bring with different drugs,” Professor Bas Bloem, who led the research, told NOS. “New drugs are seen as meaningful for patients if they improve motor skills by three points. That indicates how important the effect of cycling is.”

Researchers recruited 130 sedentary patients with Parkinson’s disease from the outpatient clinic at Radboudumc, Nijmegen, Netherlands. Patients were aged 30–75 years with a Hoehn-Yahr stage of 2 or lower, which is considered early in the disease’s progression. All were already on medication for their Parkinson’s.

Those patients were then split, 50/50, between two groups: one assigned aerobic exercise on a stationary trainer, another assigned a stretching routine. Both groups exercised for 3-45 minutes, three times per week, and were given a “motivational app” to help lead the exercises.

“The patients in the bicycle group became fitter and had fewer symptoms, so they declined less rapidly,” said Professor Bloem. “That means they use health care less. Swallow fewer pills, require fewer consultations in the hospital, but also have fewer problems, complications of lungs, heart and vessels. Many Parkinson’s patients eventually die from such complications.”

Previous research has indicated that high-intensity aerobic exercise is beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. A study using treadmills performed by Dr. Margaret Schenkman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and partially funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation, split patients into three groups, ranging from high-intensity exercise to no exercise. After six months, the high-intensity group showed lower reductions in motor ability scores, indicating a potential slowing of disease progression.

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