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In a recent study, researchers have suggested that patients in the initial stages of Parkinson's disease should workout regularly for six months at home to get positive results as a useful addition to conventional medication.
The paper was published in the journal, 'The Lancet Neurology'.
The Park-in-Shape study, which was funded by ZonMW (Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development), found an innovative solution for this challenge.
The participants were divided into two groups. Both groups had a motivational app at their disposal, which offered the participants rewards for exercising.
The control group only laid stress on performing stretching exercises, while the active intervention group was instructed to exercise for 30-45 minutes on a stationary bicycle at home, at least three times a week.
The active group's exercise bikes were also equipped with motivating games, making the programme more entertaining and challenging for the participants.
For example, the participants could race against their own previous performance -- a "ghost rider" -- or against a group of other cyclists. The system adjusted the difficulty of the game to the patient's heartbeat, making the challenge just right.
The challenges also became more difficult as the participants got fitter.
After the study, cycling patients had significantly better cardiovascular fitness, which has many obvious advantages.
The motor disability of the cycling group was also significantly better: according to the gold standard (the MDS-UPDRS score), the cycling group scored on average 4.2 points lower than the control group.
This is a rather large effect, comparable to that of several conventional Parkinson's drugs.
Nicolien van der Kolk, PhD candidate said, "We were pleasantly surprised that people with Parkinson's disease were able to adhere to their exercise regimes so well. The beneficial effect on their motor disability was also large enough to be clinically relevant. As such, exercise is a very useful addition to the medication."
The fact that this cycling exercise can take place entirely at home is a major advantage for patients, as this greatly enhances the feasibility of the treatment.