CLEVELAND – Exercise is medicine for 62-year-old Sally Terrell of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
“I’ve always stayed committed to exercise and committed to doing what I can to keep the tremors away,” she said.
Sally has Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder causing tremors on her right side. She manages her symptoms with medicine – and a stationary bike.
“I think this exercise program has really helped keep the symptoms at bay, which I hope keeps the progression down slower,” Terrell said.
Previous Cleveland Clinic research shows riding a tandem bike in the lab for eight weeks improved Parkinson’s symptoms in the short-term.
Sally is part of a second trial, using a stationary bike at home for a year. She rides least three times a week and wears a sensor, so researchers can monitor her activity and function.
“We’re looking at precise measures of motor function, walking, balance, postural instability and also, very importantly, the cognitive aspects,” said Jay Alberts, PhD, of Cleveland Clinic, the principal investigator of the trial.
The goal of the study is to understand how long-term, high intensity exercise may slow progression of the disease.
“If someone is pedaling at a relatively high rate, the change in brain function looks very similar to the change that you see after you give someone anti-Parkinson medication,” Dr. Alberts said.
Currently, no medicine or surgery has been effective in slowing Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Albert’s hopes results provide patients with an ‘exercise prescription’.
“By gathering all of the information over the course of this trial we can now help a neurologist say, ‘you’re a 61 year old female. You’ve had Parkinson’s for two years. You should pedal at 70 RPMs, 60 percent of your heart rate reserve, three times a week and this is how we think the disease will be slowed,” said Dr. Alberts.
The study, currently in its second of five years, is the first long-term research trial looking into the potential for aerobic exercise to slow progression of Parkinson’s disease.