Exercising hard enough for an older patient


My dad has been recently diagnosed with PD, and was told that regular relatively intense sustained exercise could slow down the development of symptoms. On one hand, this isn’t hard for him, as he’s been a disciplined go-to-the-gym-every-single-day person for decades. On the other hand, he is 84 years old, moves slowly in general, and it’s hard for him to significantly raise his heart rate during exercise. Moreoever, his exercise is now (due to the pandemic) limited to the exercise bike he bought a few weeks ago, though he does tend to use it a couple of times a day.

So I’m curious if anyone has any specific suggestions for him on using the exercise bike more effectively? My dad has said that he tried out some of the programs available on his exercise bike, but in the end returned to the default “plain” setting. I know that when I go cycling, my heart rate doesn’t really get that high unless I’m going up a fairly steep slope. Maybe I should encourage him to try the “tougher” settings more (he does tend to be stubborn and traditional :slight_smile: )? But I also don’t want to frustrate him or make him feel that his efforts are inadequate, and, not yet knowing all that much about PD, I’m not sure myself how important the relatively high heart rate is.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or feedback.

Hi ktostam,
Welcome to the Parkinson’s UK forum.
You may find the exercise section of the website helpful. It can be found here: https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/information-and-support/exercise. There are videos and information that you may find helpful. There is further information on the Parkinson’s UK youtube channel which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/parkinsonsUK/

My own attempts to do this have failed for the same reason as your father’s. I do not have the strength or stamina to get my heart rate up for a sustained period of time.

The beneficial effect of sustained intense exercise was discovered by a couple of doctors, one of whom had PD. They went on a long distance bike ride using a tandem. This meant the PD sufferer was forced to cycle at the same rate as his fit companion. I believe that in the USA you can buy electric static bikes which will achieve the same effect, by forcing the PD sufferer to cycle at the speed set by the bike programme. I’ve not been able to find anything similar in the UK.

This is what I mean: https://www.theracycle.com/conditions/theracycle-and-parkinsons-disease/

Indeed Jay Alberts of the cleveland clinic in ohio (and member of of our advisory board) has proven the effect of the CORRECT use of bikes. Replicated by Bas Bloem in Holland. Don’t just sit on a bike and pedal though. I have bad foot pain so find a bike helpful as walking is painful. See Jays talk to our partner association Davis Phinney. bike link above is good but also spinning bikes which help are effective.
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Thanks to all of you for your helpful replies!
I will follow up on those links and resources.