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Forced exercise for Parkinson's

July 20, 2009 3:30:39 PM PDT
There is amazing new research helping Parkinson's patients find relief. It works their legs and, in turn, lessens the shaking in their hands. Parkinson's disease patients begin losing control of movement, and shaking hands is one of the symptoms of the disease. The stunning finding was discovered accidentally and is telling amazing ways in which our body is connected.

Dr. Jay Alberts is an avid cyclist and a neuroscientist. He rides with David, who has Parkinson's disease. After one bike trip, David noticed something unusual - his handwriting had improved dramatically.

They took a before video that showed David's wildly shaking hand. Then, after the ride, he had a steady hand. Dr. Alberts wondered if exercising the legs could possibly improve the hand control?

"What we were thinking was maybe we have found a method of exercise here that actually is treating the disease rather than just treating the symptoms," Dr. Alberts said.

So Dr. Alberts started a study to test whether weeks of a plan called forced exercise on a tandem bike could improve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Forced exercise requires the patient to peddle faster than they would on their own. With the tandem bike, a trainer regulates the pedaling rate, creating a tough work out.

"What we found was there was a 35 percent improvement in motor functioning for those patients who did the forced exercise compared to the voluntary exercise," Dr. Alberts said.

Incredibly, the improvement lasted for four weeks after subjects stopped biking. Researchers think the forced exercise may be triggering the release of chemicals that improve motor function. Both forced exercise and medications activate the same regions of the brain.

Study participant Sally Terrell thinks the hard work will continue paying off.

"I have seen the results and I'm looking forward to keeping this disease at bay as best I can," she said.

The results showed that after eight weeks, patients had an average of 30 percent improvement in their symptoms, the same or slightly less than the results with brain stimulating implants and slightly more than medication. But when a patient stops medication, the symptoms come back within a few hours.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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