Pedaling for Parkinson’s

A workout that may help reduce shaking, tremors

Melissa Westphal
Ed McCaskey (right) takes a spin class Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, at the Stateline Family YMCA in Roscoe.AMY J. CORRENTI/ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR

GateHouse News ServiceEd McCaskey has lived with Parkinson’s disease for six years, and now he’s trying to help others like him mitigate some of their symptoms through exercise.

McCaskey, 59, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2006. He lives in Roscoe, Ill., and he joined the Stateline Family YMCA Roscoe Branch the same year, and he typically works out five days a week.

Exercise has been found to help reduce some of the symptoms like shaking and tremors associated with Parkinson’s. That is why the YMCA of Greater Cleveland in Ohio developed a program called Pedaling for Parkinson’s with the help of Cleveland Clinic physician Dr. Jay L. Alberts, a staff member with the Biomedical Engineering Center for Neurological Restoration.

The program — in which participants exercise on indoor spin/cycling bikes and tandem bikes — launched earlier this year, and McCaskey read about it in a Parkinson’s newsletter and pitched it to his local YMCA. Research by Cleveland Clinic showed a 35 percent reduction in symptoms with the act of pedaling a bicycle at a rapid pace — optimally 80 to 90 revolutions per minute.

The YMCA staff in Roscoe, Ill., agreed, and the one-hour class will meet three days a week starting Sept. 24 through Nov. 16. It’s free to YMCA members and nonmembers alike.

Some class participants may need a relative or friend to drive them to the class, and McCaskey said YMCA officials will let those people use the Y facilities free of charge while they wait during the class.

More than 1 million people nationally are living with Parkinson’s disease, and nearly 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Parkinson’s is a chronic degenerative disease that occurs when nerve cells in parts of the brain stem die or degenerate.

McCaskey recently traveled to Washington state and tried the Pedaling for Parkinson’s class there. It was pretty easy for the marathon runner and regular spin-class participant, but he said it’s a great opportunity for Parkinson’s patients to get moving and realize the benefits of exercise.

“I’m still pretty lucky because my symptoms are minimal,” McCaskey said. “After a good workout, a lot of those symptoms dissipate for a good part of the day. The exercise recommendation came from my doctor, but following up on it really reinforces what he says. I’m experiencing the positive benefits.”