New research builds on the brain-boosting benefits of exercise.
- Adults with early-stage Parkinson’s disease who performed 45-minute indoor cycling sessions three days a week for six months improved their symptoms similar to what could be achieved with medication, according to a study published in Lancet Neurology.
- This study builds on previous research showing that regular cycling can reduce Parkinson’s symptoms.
Spirited indoor cycling sessions may be as effective as medication for managing early stages of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in Lancet Neurology.
In the study, a team of researchers from Netherlands recruited 130 adults aged 30 to 75 years, with early-stage Parkinson’s disease to either ride a stationary trainer at home or perform an at-home stretching routine three days a week for 45 minutes over a period of six months.
Both groups were given a motivational app to lead them through their routines and reward them for workout achievements. The stationary bikes were equipped with a screen and software so the riders could race avatars, climb virtual mountains, or even play a type of cycling Pac-Man.
At the end of the study, those in the cycling group were fitter and had significantly fewer Parkinson’s symptoms, such as tremors and muscle and motor control issues, compared to those who just stretched. They actually fared worse after six months.
“After the study period, the control group scored more than four points worse on the scale with which we measure the motor skills of Parkinson’s patients,” lead researcher Bas Bloem, M.D., told NOS News.
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“The effect of cycling is about the same as the improvement we bring with different drugs. 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 that we have found,” Bloem said.
This study builds on previous research showing that people with Parkinson’s who pedaled at a high rate of speed for 40 minutes three times a week saw a 35 percent reduction in their symptoms.
In the study, the researchers stressed that the mechanism behind the connection between aerobic exercise and reduction in Parkinson’s severity is still poorly understood. But they believe exercise triggers an optimal environment in the brain—by increasing factors that support the development of brain cells called neurons, activating your immune system, and improving the function of the power-producing mitochondria in your cells.
Bloom went on to say that the riding group built fitness and reduced their symptoms, meaning they declined less rapidly—potentially staving off lung, heart, and blood vessel complications, which end up causing the deaths of many Parkinson’s patients.