In 2003, somewhat by accident, a Dr Jay Alberts was riding a tandem bicycle across Iowa. On the back was a friend with Parkinson's Disease. Quite by accident, Dr. Alberts ended up having his friend pedal about 30 pedal strokes faster per minute then normal.
The Parkinson's disease symptoms improved dramatically. With in a few hours of pedalling, all the hand tremors that had been present before the ride, had left.
He set out to conduct a real study that was complete in 2009. You can read the full post here. It's Not About the Bike, It's about the Pedaling. In the study, he took two groups of Parkinson's Patients and assigned them to Voluntary Exercise or Forced Exercise. Voluntary pedaled for an hour, 3x a week for 8 weeks, at a pace they picked. Forced did the same time and frequency but at about 80rpm on a tandem bike.
The Forced group saw 30% improvements in symptoms compared to the Voluntary group. What was more encouraging, the improvements were still there (about 20%) 2 weeks after finishing. Dr. Alberts explained that with medications, you may get 30% reduction, but the symptoms start to reappear within hours of stopping them. (they also carry some side effects)
They are currently in the midst of expanding on some of these findings at the Cleveland Clinic. How cool is this potentially? If you know of someone with Parkinson's, please share this info!