Researchers have long noticed that exercise can benefit people with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system in which brain cell death results in loss of motor control. Strenuous cycling in particular seems especially beneficial.
The Washington Post reports on the work of researcher Jay L. Alberts at the Cleveland Clinic, who made a serendipitous discovery while participating in the 2003 RAGBRAI: People with Parkinson’s riding on tandem bikes and exerting a high level of speed and intensity had a marked improvement in their motor abilities afterwords. His tandem stoker, in particular, regained an ability to clearly write her name after the first day of hard riding.
Alberts parleyed his observation into a five year study with 160 patients. His research isn’t complete, but the results so far have been promising — putting his patients on exercise bikes, and then encouraging them to kick it up a notch from comfortable pedaling into the suffer zone improved mobility and small motor skills for almost all of his subjects. Although cycling involves just the legs, the benefit extends to to the arms and hands.
More in the Post: Bicycling and other exercise may help people with Parkinson’s curb their symptoms, with a tip of the hat to Francis in the East Bay.