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How Riding a Bike Helps Seniors Manage Parkinson’s Symptoms

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Approximately 500,000 people in the United States and nearly 10 million individuals all around the globe live with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Southern California learned that regular exercise stimulates the release of dopamine, which can reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. However, in recent years, a specific form of exercise seems to have dramatic results. 

Accidental Breakthrough

Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute neuroscientist Jay L. Alberts participated in a Parkinson’s charity bike ride in 2003. He rode a tandem bike across Iowa with a female partner who had Parkinson’s disease. Whatever speed Alberts pedaled, his partner was forced to pedal. During the journey, his partner found that her upper body functions increased. 

In 2006, Alberts went on a long-distance bike journey with another person living with Parkinson’s disease. The man’s symptoms were so severe that he required insertion of a bilateral deep brain stimulation implant to reduce his tremors. Before the bike ride, he turned the implant off. After completing 15 miles of the journey, the tremors disappeared. 

While there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease at present, there are a number of ways older adults can manage the symptoms of this condition and lead healthier lives. Seniors who want to remain healthy as they age can benefit in a variety of ways when they receive professional home care. Fort Myers, FL, Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one accomplish daily tasks, prevent illness, and focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Uncovering the Mystery

Dr. Alberts and researcher Chintan Shah joined other scientists from the Cleveland Clinic to study the benefits of cycling on 26 volunteers aged 30 to 75. The group consisted of people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s symptoms. Once the group was divided in half, one group cycled at their own pace, while the other group cycled at a forced rate. The bikes used in the forced group were equipped with motors to make the users pedal faster. The participants cycled for 40 minutes three times each week for two months. 

After the volunteers rode their bikes, they reported experiencing a variety of benefits, including enhanced mobility, reduced tremors, increased alertness, and a heightened sense of smell. The benefits lasted up to four hours after each riding session. 

Each participant also underwent MRI tests before the study began, after the research concluded, and again four weeks later. The scientists used MRI imaging studies to evaluate the functional connectivity in the participants’ brains. The fcMRI images displayed oxygen changes within the brain, which provided information as to which regions of the brain demonstrated activity and how different areas communicated with each other. The researchers used the images to compare the brain activity between the two groups. 

Helping a senior loved one exercise and make healthy lifestyle choices can be a difficult task, especially if he or she has Parkinson’s disease. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Fort Myers, FL, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity.

Amazing Results

The research revealed that fast pedaling caused an increase in brain activity, which was still present one month after the study ended. However, Dr. Alberts advised that while the forced pedaling provided better results, seniors with Parkinson’s disease need not necessarily exercise as intensely to enjoy the same benefits. 

The scientists were determined to discover if seniors using exercise bikes at home might experience the same results. They also pondered to what degree swimming or using rowing machines might offer symptomatic relief.

Seniors with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from receiving professional in-home care. For many seniors in Fort Myers, FL, live-in care is an essential component of aging in place safely and comfortably. However, it’s important for them to have caregivers they can trust and rely on. At Home Care Assistance, we extensively screen all of our live-in and 24-hour caregivers and only hire those who have experience in the senior home care industry. Our strict requirements ensure seniors can remain in the comfort of home with a reduced risk of injury or serious illness. To learn about our high-quality in-home care plans, give us a call at 239.449.4701 today.