Biking Restores Brain Connectivity in Parkinson’s

From TheAtlantic

It just makes me think this morning about why I cycle, not merely to prevent or cure issues, but just to notice the connectedness of it all.

Pay attention out there.

Patients pushed hardest showed the most improvement.


James D. Schwartz / Flickr

PROBLEM: It’s commonly known that Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic, progressive, disease of central nervous system that affects motor ability — its recognizable early stages are characterized by shakiness and difficulty walking. No cure exists, which is why back in 2003, the best Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute rode a tandem bicycle across Iowa with a Parkinson’s patient (to raise awareness). Unexpectedly, the patient showed improvements in her condition after the trip. In what now much be common lore at the Institute, Alberts attempted to explain the inexplicable by noticing that his own pace was faster than that of his partner, who was forced, by the cruel mechanics of tandem cycling, to pedal faster in order to keep up.

METHODOLOGY: Alberts and his colleagues used functional connectivity MRI to study the brains of 26 patients with Parkinson’s Disease before and after they engaged in an 8-week exercise program and then, as a follow-up, one month later. Three times a week, the patients worked out on stationary bicycles. The experimental group used a modified bike that, using an algorithm in the place of a super in-shape doctor, would measure their rate of exertion and use it as a basis to push them harder than they would otherwise choose.

RESULTS: What the researchers referred to as "forced rate activity," others might feel is more accurately labeled "torture." But when they calculated the brain activation of the patients forced to pedal past their comfort level, they found lasting increases in connectivity between two areas of the brain responsible for motor ability: the primary motor cortex and the posterior region of the thalamus.

CONCLUSION: Forced-rate bicycle exercise appears to be an effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

IMPLICATION: The treatment delivered dramatic results, and has the distinction of being inexpensive and accessible. Alberts contends that even those without access to their own algorithm for forced-rate activity may be able to see improvement by using an at-home stationary bike. The next step is to evaluate the possible effects of other forms of exercise, like swimming.

The full study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.


Principles of Natural Running

I was watching this before going out for a run today.  Interesting to think about.


The Scenic Route to a Longer Life

The secret is wonderfully simple. Just enjoy yourself. Of course, if you are unhappy and all of your energy is expended on something you don’t enjoy or something that ultimately creates more stress than pleasure, your immune system is going to suffer.

The power with which your body can fight off illness is directly related to the level of stress in your life. The more panicked you are in your everyday life, the more energy your body expends being stressed, and conversely, the less energy you have to fight off illnesses.

Another very simple way to maintain longevity is to keep nature as a constant in your life. Keeping plants in your living space relieves air pollution and pumps your environment with fresh oxygen. Living in rural areas, close to wilderness also correlates to a longer life.

Wanna live past 100? Try keeping it simple, and living in harmony with your environment.


Simple Rules for Better Sleep

Yes, I am watching the Tour de France and caught myself wondering when various riders were describing how they slept more to recover from crashes how one gets this kind of sleep.  I am still learning, but I did run across the article Simple Rules for Better Sleep from the NYTimes.  And while they explain all of it, the brief take-away I had was the focus on Seniors (not there yet) and these principals.

The idea is to stick to a schedule that maximizes your “sleep efficiency” — the amount of time in bed you spend sleeping, instead of tossing and hoping that sleep will descend. That involves four rules: Reduce the time spent in bed. Get up at the same time every day. Don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy. Don’t stay in bed if you’re not sleeping.

Now if I can just find the research on reading before bed and staying away from flickering devices I will have it made.  Does anyone remember where that is?


Injury Report: What Am I Supposed To Do?

Injured my calf in January and now find myself with the injury coming and going having to sit for an extended period of time.  Off the bike as it seems to tighten the calf and then it injures itself running.  After all these years of doing both, it seems odd that I finally am bitten with this sort of injury.  I haven’t changed my routine that much, and therein lies my problem.  But I can’t afford a coach and I don’t have a current running partner in Portland to lean on, so I am simply going to rest it, no running or biking for a week, and then ease back in.

Where does this leave me for the big Mother’s Day half marathon competition?  Reading Andrew Gertig’s article How to Hack a Marathon If You Aren’t a Runner for inspiration that no matter what training level I ultimately have, I will finish and survive it.  Blasting through the run in a top 10 age group time is out of the question now.


Reprint: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Barefoot Running

This is a reprint of a post written by Leo Babauta on ZenHabits. Read the full post and honor the original author @  I just keep finding the really great articles missing later.

Leo says  “When I first heard about barefoot running, several years ago, I was skeptical — don’t we need cushion to protect us from injuries, and why would I want to run barefoot, anyway?”  And he mentions the same articles and the popularity of Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run and decided to give barefoot running a try. Why not?

Well, so did I.  What I found is that I am still adapting to running with my my Vibram Fivefinger KSOs or completely barefoot and I really appreciated his article and points and so I stored them here.  Take a look at what he has to say.


Feiyue Perhaps Instead of Five Fingers

Kevin Kelly of Cool Tools suggests Shaolin-style barefoot shoes instead of Five Fingers, read why below.  Better yet, ignore this repost and read Cool Tools, that is a great blog!



From KK

Why do I prefer Feiyue to thepreviously reviewed Vibram FiveFingers shoes? Price is half of the benefit. Another 30% of the benefit is that they don’t look like Vibrams. You can wear them around and not get stared at. There are other barefoot-style shoes, such as Terra Plana, that look good but they are still expensive as sin. The final 20% of the benefit is in durability. I generally wear a pair of Feiyue from autumn to summer and then go through another pair in the summer when I walk everywhere—on concrete in Chicago. The soles aren’t exactly thin, but they allow you to feel a lot more without getting jabbed all the time. I have walked on railroad ballast with these and it’s not the most pleasant experience but certainly better than barefoot, and nimbler than with heavy boots.

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