Pushing the Pedal on Research

Parkinson's Research on Indoor Cycling

Many questions remain in the quest to live well today with Parkinson’s. Two we’re considering right now are:  

  • Can a community cycling class slow the progression of Parkinson’s?  
  • How effective is a computerized controller on a bike that is individualized for each cyclist for improving motor function and quality of life?  

These are the questions the research studies we recently funded will seek to answer.  

Drs. Anson Rosenfeldt and Jay Alberts at the Cleveland Clinic will examine Pedaling for Parkinson’s (an existing, low-cost program hosted by YMCAs). The researchers predict this community cycling class will slow disease progression when comparing participants’ disease progression to the typical progression of Parkinson’s.  

Over 12 months, this team will be following 50 participants. Researchers will track motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms off medication as well as quality of life and exercise compliance as participants cycle in the class approximately three times per week.  

This project also aims to identify who experiences the most slowing of the disease. This project builds off some of Dr. Albert’s earlier work funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation. It represents a translation of clinical research to everyday life. We know exercise in a lab can help people living with Parkinson’s, but we have yet to document the benefits of exercise in a setting like a YMCA. This is an exciting and vital step to help more people live well today.  

[Note: Dr. Alberts has been on the Board of Directors for the Davis Phinney Foundation since 2017 and is temporarily deferring his board membership so he can lead this innovative study.]  

In another innovative study, Dr. Angela Ridgel at Kent State University will develop and test SMART (Speed Manipulated Adaptive Rehabilitation Therapy) cycling.  

First, her team will develop a computerized model individualized to each cyclist for use in a SMART controller mounted onto the chassis of a stationary motorized bike. This controller will use biomechanical data from the rider to automatically adjust bike operation to alter cadence, power and heart rate during the cycling session and across sessions.  

Dr. Ridgel and her colleagues will then measure the impact of the SMART controller in participants as they cycle three times per week over the course of one month. The researchers predict that the SMART controller will lead to improvements in motor function and quality of life when compared to people who cycle at a self-selected pace.  

Each person with Parkinson’s is unique. So, it follows that an exercise program must be adaptive and account for this uniqueness.  

How do we decide which studies to fund?

This year, the Davis Phinney Foundation received fifty-four proposals for research studies. These proposals totaled more than four million dollars of funding requested. From that pool, our Science Advisory Board, comprised of experts in Parkinson’s research including researchers, neurologists, physical therapists and clinical social workers, chose seven proposals to advance to the next stage of review.  

This board met in June to review each proposal and chose two studies to fund based on the following criteria:  

(1) scientific merit and innovation
rigorous approach
(3) direct relation to helping people with Parkinson’s live well today
(4) match to the foundation’s research priority this year – exercise  

Stay tuned for updates on how this research is progressing as these projects get rolled out.  

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