Does biking help with my Parkinsons Disease?
As a retired Army Medical Specialist and a B.S. in Community Health Education, as well as, a B.S. in Outdoor Recreation & leadership Management, and having Parkinsons Disease I feel I am pretty well qualified to test this theory out. And that is exactly what I have done the last couple years.
I first rode my 2 wheeled road bike (Giant Sedona) from Santa Monica California to St. Luis Missouri following route 66 then hopped on a few random roads heading to Washington DC. I then rode my ICE Adventure recumbent trike (3 wheeler) from Oregon to Colorado where I was forced to stop due to being hit by a semi. Trip was supposed to go to Yorktown Virginia. But that’s another story.
Biking definitely helps reduce my shaking and other issues related to this disease. Although I can no longer ride a 2 wheel bike safely because my balance is not what it used to be. Now I ride trikes. With a 2 wheel bike I struggled with staying balanced on slow uphill rides. I had to get off bike and walk uphill. I often had trouble steering and maintaining a straight path.
With a 3 wheel trike balancing was no longer an issue. I can now go as slow as I need to uphill and not have to worry about falling over or getting off trike. People with Parkinsons tend to retract their limbs holding them close to their bodies. Physical therapy tries to get you to do wide open movements. My trike does this by having wide steering controls and armrests to help hold you stable and gain as much control as possible. I have stability bars called “helping hands” that help me get on and off trike safely.
My trike allows for me to adjust it in many ways. I can lay back or sit up in the seat by moving its position forward/backward, up/down, and tilting. It’s very comfortable and I feel stable and at ease on it. On a regular 2 wheel bike this isn’t the case. It should be noted that a trike is significantly slower at times than a normal 2 wheel bike. But what you lose in speed you gain in stability and distance.
I found that my ideal distance for my physical condition and endurance is around 40-60mpd (miles per day) at about 9-12mph (miles per hour), depending on terrain of course . With 5-15 minute breaks throughout the day. My longest day was 125 miles and took about 13hrs. My shortest day was 15 miles due to a storm.
I have noticed a significant reduction of tremors, better range of arm and leg motion, less muscle spasms, and less tightening of muscles. My head hurts less as well due to less stress headaches which for me turn into migraines. Overall my body feels better at the end of the day and sleep is more peaceful, specially in a hammock but that to is another story.
My original neurologist gave me 3-5 years (based on his testing an opinion) before I would be bed ridden, then die. Now after a few years of extreme bike touring my new neurologist and my recreational therapist believe if I keep this up I could live another 20-30 years.
So I think it is safe to say that:
A) bicycling in general does indeed help prolong your life and reduce your symptoms.
B) a trike is better than a bike for those experiencing balance issues
C) the only way to know for sure is to get up and ride something today and test your limits
Below is a link to an article about Parkinsons Disease and bicycling:
If you would care to support the research and help those like myself you can do so here:
I hope that next year I can setup a fundraiser bike ride to raise money for the above foundation.