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Jodi Cianci improves her Parkinson’s symptoms by cycling

posted Sep 24, 2012, 9:25 PM by Dianne James
Can stalling the progression of Parkinson’s disease be as simple as riding a bike?

Jodi Cianci is a living example. The West Chester resident and wife of chiropractor Christopher Cianci of Total Body Rehab in Upper Gwynedd was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder just one year after they were married.

Although Cianci has not had the tremors associated with Parkinson’s, she lost functionality in her hands to the point where she had to step down from practicing law because of diminished physical ability to type or write.

“I was moving very stiffly. My neck wasn’t moving properly. I just wasn’t moving as quickly as I used to be,” said Cianci, who had received diagnoses of a herniated disc, carpal tunnel syndrome and stress, before tests at University of Pennsylvania Hospital found that low levels of the brain chemical dopamine were indeed a symptom of Parkinson’s.

Searching for an alternative to doing nothing or beginning a medication schedule, the newlyweds visited the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where research was being conducted on a connection between bicycling, the brain and the disease.

Dr. Jay Alberts told them that research showed that spinning or pedaling a bicycle at 80-90 rpm for 45 minutes for three times a week — a rigorous workout, especially for someone with Parkinson’s — makes a difference, even though the problems are with Cianci’s arms, and not her legs.

Chris Cianci, an avid cyclist for more than 25 years and a triathlete, said that although his also-athletic wife had to be introduced to the pedaling workout with “forced exercise” on a tandem bike, that kind of exercise “changes the circuits of the brain in a way that’s good.”

“We went to the Cleveland Clinic in March, took part of the program and brought it back to Bryn Mawr (Rehab Hospital),” said Jodi Cianci.

After six weeks of spinning, Chris Cianci noticed his wife’s fine motor skills returning. They said that she is regaining hand function and her handwriting, which had gotten smaller and harder to read because of the disease, has become legible again.

“If you do the exercise, you can stall the progression and reverse the symptoms,” said Jodi Cianci