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Pedaling Our Way to Parkinson’s Relief

By Tyler Ramey

Pedaling Our Way to Parkinson’s ReliefAdding to the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, the YMCA in Kingsport is moving toward expanding their chronic disease prevention programming by soon offering a Parkinson’s Cycling Program.  The Y is in the process of hosting a pilot class and is in search of participants to join in and form a group.  The class adapts to participants in various stages of diagnosis and progressions. The article¹ below details the program the Y is planning to launch.

Cycling on stationary bikes may provide symptomatic relief for people with Parkinson’s disease, especially if they cycle using what’s described as Forced Exercise, i.e. pedaling at a rate faster than their voluntary cadence. Researchers found cycling, especially at rates above what patients would choose for themselves, appeared to make regions of the brain that deal with movement connect to each other more effectively.

Approximately 7 to 10 million people all over the world live with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive neurological disorder where part of the brain gradually becomes more damaged as the years go by. The main symptoms of the disease are movement related.

The researchers randomly assigned the patients to one of two groups. One group (13 patients) cycled at their own voluntary pace, while the other group cycled at a forced rate.

During the study, researchers calculated brain activity and connectivity levels with the MRI brain scans. After reviewing the brain scans, the conclusion was drawn that the fast pedaling group of cyclists had better brain connectivity. That improved brain activity was between the primary motor cortex and the posterior region of the brain’s thalamus. The improvements were still observed through the MRI scans at the 4 week follow-up test.

One of the researchers suggested that this study shows that “forced-rate bicycle exercise is an effective, low-cost therapy for Parkinson’s disease.”

The Parkinson’s Cycling Program is useful for people with Parkinson’s disease due to the balance challenges that many experience. Indoor group cycling lead by a trained coach provides a monitored and safe exercise protocol. The participant is able to pedal in a controlled environment while being observed as well as coached properly. The support of the group class enhances the experience so the exercise behavior becomes routine and part of everyday life.

There are other benefits of the Parkinson’s Cycling Program as well. Most Parkinson’s individuals are quite sedentary due to symptomatic issues and difficulty with the daily activities of life. Group cycling gives that individual the opportunity to build the muscles of the lower leg in a safe way. As the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves become stronger, everyday activities become somewhat easier to handle.

The people with Parkinson’s who are involved in this program also begin to see an increase in energy levels – common for all populations of people who become more active and physically fit. With proper bike fit, these new riders put less stress on their knees, ankles, and spine while increasing their lower body strength. This is truly beneficial to the population who experience movement issues due to Parkinson’s disease.

Living healthy is about spirit, mind and body at every age and stage, and the Kingsport Y needs your help to serve a segment of the population that can benefit from this program. If you are a current Y member or if you know someone with Parkinson’s disease who may be interested in this program, please contact the YMCA’s Group Exercise Director at tramey@ymcakpt.org for more information.

YMCA Wellmont Center  |  Greater Kingsport Family YMCA
1840 Meadowview Pkwy | Kingsport, TN  37660 | ymcakpt.org/423.247.9622

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