Cycling Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease – a new drug of choice!

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Cycling Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease – a new drug of choice!

25th October, 2017

My name is Eileen Ting, I work full-time as a Senior Neurophysiotherapist at Advanced Neuro Rehab and am currently doing a Masters of Clinical Rehabilitation (Neurological Physiotherapy) through Flinders University. I have a special interest in providing management for a range of neurological conditions, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as conditions related to dizziness and imbalance. As part of the Masters program, and with the support of Parkinson’s SA, I conducted a research project investigating the feasibility and effects of an 8 week ‘HII (High Intensity Interval)-Speed’ Cycling program on mobility and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The research

There is growing evidence supporting the use of speed-based exercise to improve motor function and improve neuroplasticity in people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as play an important role in slowing the progression of the disease in affected parts of the brain. However, existing speed-based exercise protocols for people with Parkinson’s are too costly and impractical for use in the home or community settings, because they need expensive motorised equipment or a cycling partner.  Instead, we designed a high-speed exercise program that could be performed simply using a stationary bike, and our aim was to observe whether a small group of people with Parkinson’s disease could complete the program successfully.

Overall, the findings of the study were very promising – showing that the cycling program we designed could be performed safely, and had the potential to improve quality of life and mobility in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease. To our knowledge this is the first study to show that people with Parkinson’s could perform high-speed exercise over a number of sessions without assistance.

Where to in the future?

This research has now enabled us to explore opportunities for larger studies investigating how best to deliver this cycling program into home and community settings, as well as how it can be used to improve current methods of mobility and balance training in people with Parkinson’s.

If you are interested in participating in any future trials or would like any information about the previous study or management of movement problems, you can contact Anne Heard (Group Programs Coordinator) at Parkinson’s SA, who will forward your details on to me. The program is suitable for people with a range of cycling experience, from absolute beginners with no experience on a bike, to well-seasoned cyclists.

Special thanks

I would like to express my very great appreciation to all the people and organisations who have contributed to this study. My special thanks are extended to the staff at Jetts Marden for their ongoing support; offering their equipment and gym facilities for the program and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for people with Parkinson’s. I would also like to thank Dr Chris Barr and Associate Professor James McLoughlin from Flinders University who provided me with valuable advice throughout the study. A very special thanks to Christine Belford, Anne Heard and the staff at Parkinson’s SA for their assistance with recruitment of participants for the study. I am also very grateful to Parkinson’s SA for awarding me the Parkinson’s SA Research Scholarship, a wonderful and important initiative to support home-grown research. I wish to acknowledge Mike Hannan for being an outstanding advocate of cycling in people with Parkinson’s, and sharing his enthusiasm for creating more opportunities for physical activity in the community. Lastly, I am particularly grateful to the five volunteers who participated in the study, your involvement not only made the study possible, but your enthusiasm, patience and camaraderie made it an entirely enjoyable and memorable experience for me.

I am looking forward to continuing working closely with Parkinson’s SA to bring more opportunities for improving movement and quality of life for people in our community.

Eileen Ting

Senior NeuroPhysiotherapist

Advanced Neuro Rehab