If you have Parkinson's Disease (PD), you may have participated in physical therapy to help learn strategies and exercises to improve strength, range of motion, and safe functional mobility.
A recent study presented at the Radiological Society of North America Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting found that patients with PD who pedaled a stationary bike at a high rate of speed showed a marked improvement in functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI). This type of MRI shows blood flow changes in the brain and shows how different areas of the brain connect with each other.
The researchers recruited 26 patients aged 30-75 years old with mild to moderate PD. The participants were randomized into two groups: one group pedaled a bike at their own chosen rate of speed. The other group pedaled a bike at a rate of speed that was higher than their own chosen rate.
Images of the brain were taken with fcMRI before the study, at 4 weeks into the study, and at the study's conclusion at 8 weeks. Participants in the study rode bicycle sessions 3 times a week for 8 weeks.
The main finding in the study as presented by the authors was that there was increased connectivity in task related areas of the brain that are often affected in patients with PD. The researches concluded that high rate bike pedaling in patients with PD can improve brain connectivity. Forced-rate bicycle exercise seems to be a low cost way to help improve brain function in patients with PD.
While improvements in fcMRI results from bike exercise are important, it is also important to measure functional improvements in patients with PD. A visit to your physical therapist can help you determine your specific needs and abilities.