Neuroscientist Jay Alberts is an avid cyclist, but he never expected to make any medical discoveries on his bike. He did just that on a 50-mile ride across Iowa with his tandem bike partner, fellow neurologist Dr. David Heydrick, who has Parkinson’s. After the bike trip, Heydrick noticed that his handwriting dramatically improved.
Alberts started a small trial at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, to test whether eight weeks of forced exercise on a tandem bike could improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Forced exercise requires the patient to peddle faster than they would voluntarily. He found that there was a 35 percent improvement in motor functioning for those patients who did the forced exercise compared to the voluntary exercise. According to Alberts, the improvement lasted, although dwindled, for four weeks after the patients stopped biking.