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Pedaling for Parkinson's


RAGBRAI 2011

Pedaling for Parkinson’s is committed to advancing our understanding of how physical activity impacts the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.  Pedaling for Parkinson’s research mission came about after Cathy Frazier, Co-founder, commented during RAGBRAI 2003 that, “for this week it did not feel like I had Parkinson’s.”  These comments were later confirmed to some degree by Dr. Alberts.  Upon returning to Atlanta, Dr. Alberts evaluated Cathy’s motor symptoms using the clinical evaluation assessment, the Unified Parkinson’s disease Rating Scale (UPDRS-Part III Motor Exam).  Cathy’s scores decreased by nearly 35% compared to her scores approximately six months earlier.  While on the 2003 trip, Dr. Alberts also noticed that Cathy’s tremors had improved and her handwriting seemed to be larger and more legible.

Improved motor functioning over the course of training for RAGBRAI and during the event itself led to Dr. Alberts positing that riding on a tandem may have contributed to these improvements in motor function in the upper and lower extremity.  These non-specific improvements suggest that these changes are not just due to changes in lower extremity body composition. 

We are currently exploring the hypothesis that these improvements in motor function are due to an increase in the patients’ cadence (RPM’s).  The average cadence of a Parkinson’s disease patient during stationary and on-road cycling is between 40-50 RPM.  A well-conditioned road cyclist will typically pedal at cadences greater than 85 RPM.  When riding on a tandem bicycle both participants must pedal at the same rate as the pedals are locked via a timing chain.  We hypothesize that positive motor effects occur when Parkinson’s patients pedal at rates higher than they can normally achieve (e.g. riding a tandem with a trained cyclist).

Recent articles by Dr. Jay L. Alberts