Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disease, affects about 7-10 million people worldwide.  Most cases tend to occur after the age of 50 and cognitive problems like dementia are known to develop in Parkinson’s patients.  There have been a lot of studies on this disease and on trying to slow down the disease.  A new study may shows that exercise can improve cognitive function in Parkinson’s patients.

Alberts and co-researcher Chintan Shah from the Cleveland Clinic, used functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) to study the effect of exercise, specifically cycling, on patients from 30-75 with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease.  They studied two groups (13 patients per group; 26 patient’s total); one group pedaled at their own leisurely rate and the other was pedaling at a forced rate.

They took a total of 3 fcMRI scans; the beginning, middle, and the end.  After studying them for eight weeks they learned that there seemed to be a connection between faster pedaling and the improvements they saw in the scans.  Also, they noticed that it was not only the patients that were pedaling faster that showed cognitive improvements; however, the patients that cycled at their own rate also showed improvement just not as great ad the faster group.   

Shah said, about the study, “Forced-rate bicycle exercise is an effective, low-cost therapy for Parkinson’s disease.”  Compared to deep brain stimulation this new potential therapy will be affordable to patients.   

Shah and his team are continuing their studies on Parkinson’s disease and they are also beginning to look at other forms of exercise other than cycling.

Go read more about Parkinson’s and cycling.