It is estimated that nearly 10 million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease around the world with 1 million of them living right here in the United States. Parkinson’s disease results in uncontrollable movements and loss of coordination in the body due to malfunctioning or dying nerve cells. The disease affects these cells that are responsible for producing the dopamine your body needs to control movements and as the disease worsens and the dopamine levels drop, the more severe the symptoms become.
However, researchers have found that exercise can help slow the stages of Parkinson’s disease through high aerobic activities that require balance such as bicycling. In fact, riding a bike has recently been studied and praised for its neuroprotective outcomes for those with a neurodegenerative disease. It is exercises that demand attention, repetition and progression of difficulty that a Parkinson’s patient needs to reduce early onset symptoms. It’s believed that activities such as riding a stationary bike or weight lifting does not help patients rather it’s the exercises that involve cognitive ability and learning such as bicycling outside that helps to spark nerve cell interaction to release the dopamine that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease lose on a daily basis.
While it is especially important for those with neurodegenerative diseases to exercise, it is those suffering with Parkinson’s that can have symptoms such as weakness, difficulty walking, stiffness and falls in addition to cognitive processing issues that require regular exercise at a higher intensity or for a longer length of time for it to properly become a part of the treatment regimen. In the journal of American Physical Therapy Association, Dr. King and Dr. Horak state that intense exercise can improve the brains “plasticity” to protect against disease that affect the nervous system and can even reverse motor deficits. For example, Parkinson’s patients that are in stage 2 have both sides of their body affected but with their balance still intact riding a bicycle can reduce tremors, increase blood flow, improve muscle flexibility and have reported less difficulties with daily activities.
Although exercise cannot reverse all Parkinson’s symptoms it’s important to know treatment possibilities and the positive outcomes it can have for you or your loved one.
Brody, J. (2017, January 23). Exercise Can Be a Boon to People With Parkinson’s Disease. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/23/well/exercise-can-be-a-boon-to-people-with-parkinsons-disease.html?_r=0
The Regents of the University of California. (2012). Exercise and Physical Therapy. Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center. Retrieved from http://pdcenter.neurology.ucsf.edu/patients-guide/exercise-and-physical-therapy