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Cycling can help Parkinson's sufferers

Cycling can help Parkinson's sufferers

by Suzanne Kerins

26th November 2012 9:55am GMT


Cycling could help sufferers of Parkinson's disease, scientists claim.

Research has shown cycling improved connections between brain regions linked to the disease and boosted patients’ co-ordination and balance

Around 120,000 Britons have Parkinson’s. Symptoms include a gradual slowing down of the body, tremors as well as speech problems.

Some sufferers have become wheelchair-bound as the disease progresses.

High-profile sufferers include Michael J Fox, who was just 30 when he was diagnosed with the condition, and boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.

US neuroscientist Jay Alberts, of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, in Ohio, began the research after noticing improvements in his companion, a Parkinson’s patient, after a long-distance tandem ride.  

Dr Alberts, of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, Ohio, said: ‘The finding was serendipitous. I was pedalling faster, which forced her to pedal faster.

'She had improvements in her upper extremity function, so we started to look at the possible mechanism behind this improved function.’

In the study, he carried out a series of scans on the brains of 26 Parkinson’s patients who used exercise bikes three times a week for two months.

Some pedalled at their own pace, while others undertook ‘forced-rate’ cycling, in which they had to pedal faster by motors fitted to their bikes.

The scans revealed pedalling, particularly vigorous pedalling, boosted connections between brain regions linked to movement, the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago heard.

The charity Parkinson’s UK welcomed the research, saying the balance and co-ordination can be badly damaged as the disease progresses.

However, it also cautioned that not all patients would be capable of exercising intensely.