August 14, 2019 @ 6:46 AM


From Davis Phinney Foundation newsletter dated 7/27/2019

Exercise is essential for improving quality of life with Parkinson's, but where does cycling fit in and why do we see so much of it?

In 2003 Jay Alberts, PhD, Cleveland Clinic, was riding RAGBRAI (happening this week!) on a tandem bicycle with Cathy, a person with Parkinson’s. After they had been riding together for a few days, he noticed a significant improvement in her symptoms. This led Dr. Alberts to wonder whether exercise, specifically cycling, helped improve function for a person living with Parkinson’s.

This discovery served as the inspiration for a groundbreaking research study by Dr. Alberts and movement disorder neurologist, Dr. Bas Bloem of Radboud University. Funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation, the outcome of this research reversed the common practice of prescribing rest for Parkinson’s. 

Now, nine years later, exercise to manage Parkinson's symptoms is one of the best ways to live well today. But what about cycling specifically? 

Depending upon pace and intensity, cycling has been shown to: 

  • Improve overall motor function 
  • Reduce tremor
  • Reduce bradykinesia
  • Reduce rigidity
  • Improve aerobic capacity
  • Improve mood
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Increase joy and social connections
  • Decrease UPDRS scores (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale)

Research on cycling for Parkinson's is ongoing. One of the grants the Foundation funded last year is for research Dr. Anson Rosenfeldt and Dr. Jay Alberts are conducting to examine if Pedaling for Parkinson’s (an existing, low-cost indoor cycling program hosted by YMCAs) can slow Parkinson’s progression. This project also aims to identify which individuals respond the most (more slowing of disease progression) to this type of exercise.