EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Imagine a drug that improves quality of life and symptoms for people living with Parkinson’s Disease, and it’s inexpensive. That’s what many patients in the Capital Region are finding with a specific exercise class revolutionizing their treatment, slowing down their progression.
Every spin class needs someone like Kevin, ready to rev up the heart rate and pedal. Every week, for about 60 minutes, Kevin McCarthy and his buddies push aside their symptoms and race toward a better day.
“Ten years ago, the Y started this program,” McCarthy stated. And he’s been coming to class ever since. “There were about ten of us.”
Pedaling for Parkinson’s got underway locally at the East Greenbush YMCA. McCarthy was diagnosed about 13 years ago with a disease that slowly robs people of their ability to move.
“The hardest thing I do every day is get dressed,” he explained. “Some days, you wake up, you just feel like not very good.”
But once he’s on a bike, that all changes. “You feel better after the class. It helps your balance,” he said.
Sondra Tucker, the group exercise instructor, added, “I treat it like a regular spin class. The only thing we don’t do is have them get off the seat.”
There is an important reason for that: Parkinson’s affects a person’s balance and coordination. Rita Dykstra, a student in the spin class, explains, “I love bicycling outside, but I didn’t know how safe it would be. I haven’t fallen off, yet.”
Shelley Salem, another student, said, “There are days when I come here, I feel tired, but then I start moving and I’m happy.”
A dose of spinning is just what the doctor ordered. Dr. Eric Molho, professor of neurology at Albany Medical Center, explained, “That kind of exercise can slow the progression of their illness. Their prognosis is improved.”
In Parkinson’s, a neuro-degenerative disease, healthy brain cells start to die prematurely, causing stiffness, tremors and trouble moving.
Dr. Molho added, “If we can find a way to have them die slower over time, that’s a really important thing and means we are slowing down the degenerative process. Exercise seems to be able to do that to a certain degree.”
The research from the Cleveland Clinic shows there was a 35% reduction in symptoms from pedaling a bicycle at a rate of 80-90 rotations per minute.
“You get your heart rate going, get a good sweat, and these chemicals get released and you feel energized and uplifted,” Dr. Molho said.
“It makes them feel like I worked out today, I’m an athlete. It is a huge deal. They’ll come in and not be able to take their coat off,” Tucker told NEWS10.
Kevin has turned spinning into his prescription for Parkinson’s. The intensity helping him find balance on the bike and in life.
On Saturday, October 28, local non-profit Hope Soars will be holding their annual gala in Colonie. The event is to raise awareness and money to help support programs like Pedaling for Parkinson’s and fund important life-saving research.
Visit Help for Parkinson’s to find more resources and support from the Parkinson’s community.