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If you’ve ever had a dream in which you could fly, that might give you an idea of the freedom Parkinson’s patients feel when they get on a bicycle. Weighed down by the frustrating and often crippling effects of Parkinson’s disease, even doctors were at first in disbelief when they discovered that these patients could not only get on a bike, but cycle with ease — often for as many as six or more miles.

One of the first to learn about this unusual phenomenon was a doctor in the Netherlands named Bastian R. Bloem. A 58-year-old patient who had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for a decade who could barely walk explained that he stayed physically active by bicycling. Dr. Bloem was in a state of shock when he watched the patient mount a bicycle and circle the parking lot in smooth circles. This video posted by the New York Times juxtaposes the patient having a very difficult time walking with the fluidity of his bicycling.

Further research has shown that bicycling at high speeds of 80 to 90 revolutions per minute (RPMs) can impact the brain in similar ways as the Parkinson’s drug lepodova. Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic found these results through brain scans taken after patients participated in forced stationary bicycling at high steady rates. The results of such exercise were a 35% improvement in motor function.

Doctors still aren’t sure exactly what it is about bicycling, in particular, that is so significant to Parkinson’s disease. However, what research has proven is that it isn’t the forward motion of the bicycle that affects patients, but rather the pedaling itself. This comes as a relief to Parkinson’s patients who don’t feel steady enough to walk across the room, much less mount a bicycle.

However, while the benefits of cycling are numerous, stationary bikes still present the obstacle of mounting. In addition, Parkinson’s patients who have the compounded element of joint problems may be hesitant about bicycling because of pain and locked joints. The Theracycle presents a solution to both of these issues.

With the Theracycle 100 model, patients may stay seated in a chair or wheelchair while the bicycle pedals pull right up, eliminating the need for mounting. The Theracycle’s Smart Motor allows for assisted or independent pedaling, and detects any change of resistance (like locked joints), and stops within a quarter of a pedal turn. By recognizing the barriers that Parkinson’s patients face, the creators of Theracycle created a safe, effective way for those with Parkinson’s disease to get the exercise they need to minimize the frustrating effects of the disease.

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