Riding For Parkinson’s

Cycling produced brain findings similar to deep brain stimulation treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As Parkinson’s disease (PD) progresses, symptoms like shaking and difficulty walking also progress. Those not in a position to get expensive or invasive treatments like deep brain stimulation may find relief through exercise.

A recent small study examined the use of stationary bikes to control PD. The study found that the use of the exercise bikes produced brain imaging results that looked very similar to treatment with deep brain stimulation.

"Ask your doctor about bicycling as therapy for Parkinson's."

Jay L. Alberts, Ph.D, of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute in Cleveland and colleagues studied 26 patients with PD. The patients were all aged 30 to 75 and participated in bicycle exercise three times a week for 8 weeks.

The patients were assigned to either pedal at a rate of their choosing or at a rate chosen for them. Thirteen participants were in the voluntary exercise group and 13 were in the forced rate exercise. The forced rate group was placed on a modified exercise bike installed with technology to sense the patient’s rate of exertion and adjust a motor appropriately.

The study participants were given functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) scans at the beginning, the end and four weeks after the study as a follow-up.

The team used the fcMRI results to calculate brain activation and connection between different regions. The data was compared to average pedal rates.

The results showed that faster pedaling led to greater connectivity in parts of the brain linked to motor skills. Higher speeds of pedaling were associated with more improvement. The benefits were still visible at follow-up.

The researchers note that not all participants need to engage in forced rate exercise to see some improvement. Exercise in general will help their condition.

Dr. Daniel Clearfield, DO, a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine & Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and Primary Care Sports Medicine, was not surprised by these results.

"Even in the setting of a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson's, the body is still capable of finding ways to compensate to increase its functionality," said Dr. Clearfield. 

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. One of the authors is a consultant and speaker for Cleveland Medical Devices. No other conflicts of interest were reported. Research presented at academic meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 11, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013