One of the areas that Parkinson’s Disease research is actively pursuing due to a huge body of anecdotal evidence is that regular exercise helps the Parkinson’s patient slow down the progress of symptoms or helps mask the symptoms. The number one recommendation from neurologists to their patients is to exercise. So looking at home exercise equipment like a Schwinn recumbent bike as well as walking, and getting involved in an exercise classes are all definitely something worthwhile for any Parkinson’s patient to look into. This article looks into some of the current research on the use of exercise bikes.
Parkinson’s Disease is often referred to as a movement disorder. It has no cure. It is a neurological condition that affects the dopamine your brain needs. It gradually breaks down and causes stiffness or a slowing down of what used to be easy normal every day activities. There are as many variations of the disease as there are people. Many develop tremors, most have a stooped over postures and shuffle like walk. Some will have their voice muscles gradually weaken. Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox are two well known patients who are pretty far along in the disease progression. The Michael J Fox Foundation is committed to funding all sorts of research in institutions all over the country. Substantiating the effects of exercise is one of many areas they currently fund.
In July of 2008, Dr. Jay Alberts, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic, has published his findings on the advantages of tandem biking and Parkinson’s Disease. Initially they found that by riding for one hour a day on a tandem bike, three days a week the symptoms improved about 35%, and went away if the exercise stopped. What the tandem bike does is allow the non Parkinson’s rider to be in front and force the speed to be higher than the Parkinson’s patient would do on their own. A current study that Dr. Alberts and The Cleveland Clinic are involved in is using a motorized Theracycle.
So, how does this answer the question about whether a Parkinson’s patient should buy a Schwinn recumbent bike? Well, it tells us first that any exercise it good, but to make the symptoms improve at the 35% levels you have to get up to 80-90 RPMs. In the initial clinical trials it was harder for Parkinson’s patients to get up there on their own, and needed the second person on a tandem bike to drive up the RPMs. If you have an exercise bike that you can set it to move at the 80-90RPMs on its own, or with a second person there to urge you own, without you wanting to swat them one, then buying that bike whether it is upright or recumbent will help improve symptoms.
However, any exercise is better than no exercise for a Parkinson’s patient. Buying something like a Schwinn recumbent bike will give both the patient and caregiver a chance to get a good aerobic workout. Patients in the earlier stages where the symptoms are not so obvious may be able to get the RPMs up there. Meanwhile keep your eyes and ears open for the results of the motorized bike study, talk to your trainer at a gym and see what advice they have to help get those RPMs up to the optimal level.