Pedaling for a Cure and Enjoying the Ride

Pedaling for a Parkinson's Cure and Enjoying the Ride

Trial participants power through a stationary bike workout for the “Pedaling for Parkinson’s” study at the Frank Berlin YMCA in on April 2, 2013. (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Elaine Litherland)

“Some days I forget I have Parkinson’s,” says Marilyn Schaefer, 75 from Sarasota, Florida, who is a retired second grade teacher, avid tennis player, mother of four, and grandmother of 11. She recently participated in a clinical study investigating the effects of exercise on PD symptoms. Calling the program “amazing,” Marilyn notes that participating in the study not only gave her an increased sense of well-being, but allowed her to connect with the other participants who could relate to her PD experience.

The observational study followed 17 Parkinson’s patients with an average age of 71 through a 12-week cycling program . Twice-weekly, the group met for 55-minute cycling sessions at the Sarasota YMCA where the participants cycled at top speeds to increase their heart rates to levels they may not have reached for years.

Not only did Marilyn notice a significant improvement in her balance and gait as a result of the extra physical activity, but she also found that her handwriting became considerably more legible. “Nearly all of the participants showed improvement,” she recalls.

Throughout the trial Marilyn felt as though she was literally “pedaling to find a cure for Parkinson’s” with a group of people she describes as a fraternity. “It was reassuring to be surrounded by others like myself working together to improve the lives of both current and future Parkinson’s patients, while seeing instantaneous results,” she says.

To keep up with her grandchildren, Marilyn likes to be as mobile as possible. Since the trial ended earlier this year she has continued to cycle and still attributes her reduced symptoms to physical activity. Registered on Fox Trial Finder, MJFF’s online clinical trials matching tool, Marilyn is eager to participate in her next trial. Of her first trial experience, Marilyn says, “It was an absolute pleasure to participate and I know that I’m making valuable contributions to research that can benefit millions.”