People in the early stages of Parkinson's disease may see their symptoms dramatically improved by aerobic exercise like indoor cycling, a study has shown.
Researchers found that high intensity aerobic exercise on a static bike, using interactive apps, provided 'about the same improvement' as medication in patients.
Researchers working in the study, published in The Lancet Neurology (opens in new tab), split a group of sufferers into two groups and monitored their progress over six months.
One group pedalled on home trainers, using software which showed course such as Tour de France stages, with variable resistance letting them compete against other patients on hills.
The other group did stretching exercises three times a week, also with an app to maintain motivation.
The control group scored four less points on the scale used to assess the motor skills of Parkinson patients.
Head of the research team professor Bas Bloem told broadcaster NOS: "The effect of cycling is about the same as the improvement we would get from different types of medication. New medication for patients are regarded as meaningful if the improvement it brings has a score of three. That shows you how important the effect of cycling really is.
"The cyclists were fitter and had fewer symptoms. They were deteriorating at a slower pace. That means they will need less medical care and fewer pills but also that effects of the disease on their lungs and heart will be reduced. Many Parkinson patients die of these complications," he added.
This month, residents in care homes across the world will take part in the 'Senior Road World Championships', with elderly competitors racing each other to claim the title.
The event has been backed by British Cycling and Sport England, and competitors take part using equipment supplied by tech company Motitech, pedalling inside on adapted bikes on around 1,700 virtual paths.
The first event took place in 2017 and in 2018 2,500 riders took part, covering covering 52,000 km together.
Resident at Lura Boas care home in Sandnes, Norway, Reidar Schoopp told us: "It has been so busy here that I had to get up at 6.30 in the morning so I could ride the bike. There where so many people that wanted to cycle that it created a queue!
"I actually broke my hip 18 months ago, so I didn’t have great strength in my legs, but now I can go up and down the stairs without any problems at all. Road Worlds for Seniors is really great. My doctor reminded me that I was really sick, but every time rode the bike, I didn’t notice or think about it at all. I feel in fantastic form purely because of cycling on the bike."
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