Riding Towards Hope and Healing

Pedaling for Parkinson’s

Pedaling for Parkinson'sPEDALING FOR PARKINSON’S 

In 2018, our YMCA had the opportunity to offer a group cycling class that was focused on improving symptoms for individuals with Parkinson’s, originally called Parkinson’s Cycle, and now renamed Pedaling for Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s is a brain disease that causes uncontrollable movements, such as tremors, and can create difficulty with balance and movement.  Pedaling for Parkinson’s is a group cycling class that is designed to help participants be proactive in improving their function, or at the least, allow them to not regress.  Cycling instructors Colleen Chapdelaine and Ed Soloway were approached to gauge interest in facilitating this new program. Once they began the class met Tuesdays/Thursdays 11-12pm, research has suggested 11 am time frame is best for this population due to medications/movement. The class requires medical clearance to participate and physical assessments are performed at the start of each session and then again at the end of the 12 weeks to document improvement. Now in its sixth year, Colleen shared they began with 21 participants and during classes they not only provide instruction but also encourage riders to speak out loud and challenge them cognitively with trivia and other games.  She included, “The riders have bonded, and we often get together outside of the studio for an afternoon.”

Don Levi Pedaling for Parkinson's Rider

One of those inaugural riders and participant still today is long time member, Don Levi. Don has been a member of the YMCA of Greater Nashua for over 30 years, and he had been a physician in Nashua for 42, so when he started to develop symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease he had a feeling that would be his diagnosis.  Don was officially diagnosed 12 years ago and he shared of hearing the news, “I pretty much took it in stride with my supportive wife, Heidi.  We would do what we had to do and go on with a positive attitude.”  Don participated in lots of walking, swimming, exercising, and the Nautilus program at the Y.  He said that he knows that for many people who get diagnosed it can be overwhelming, they get depressed or are in denial. Don knew he needed to stay active and connected and did the best he could.  The Pedaling for Parkinson’s class was the perfect opportunity for him to join and he has remained a big advocate for the benefits of the program.

Although many people have attended and completed the class, their most recent assessment accomplishment is something to celebrate.  The three part assessment includes 30 Second Sit to Stand Test (getting out of a chair without assistance), Balance Stand Test (balancing on one foot), and the Walk Test (walking around cones). Each test is timed while every repetition is counted. In the most recent walk test, completed in September 2023, many participants increased their 6-minute distance by 10%! That’s an amazing group accomplishment to achieve such improvements because of this program.

The class continues to meet twice a week and Don shared that it’s not just the physical aspect that has helped him, “It has helped me in two ways, of course physically, my neurologist said whatever you’re doing keep doing it.  I feel so much better after each session.” Don said he enjoys participating with everyone, “and if people with PD do not stay active, physically and socially, they become more symptomatic.”  He shared that it helps to keep his mood up, improve his attitude and he values the relationships he’s made in class and the friends he’s met.  “We just have a lot of fun and I look forward to going.”  In addition he values the interaction between the coaches and the participants, expressing that there is so much empathy, and the coaches are so genuine in their caring.

In addition, to the class, the Y also offers a support group, which meets at the Nashua Y once per month. Don said he enjoys going and that everyone has something in common and can talk to each other about their shared experiences.

For instructor Colleen the program has impacted her greatly, “In 2020, I earned my Master’s Degree, my research was focused on Forced Exercise and the Symptomatic Improvement of Parkinson’s Disease. With permission, this cycle group participated in my research studies and data included was improvement of physical symptoms, fine motor improvements, cognitive improvements, social improvements and improvements in independence.”

To find out more about Parkinson’s you may visit the Parkinson’s Foundation at www.parkinson.org and if you’re interested in learning more about our Pedaling for Parkinson’s class and/or the support group please reach out to Liz Kaas at ekaas@nmymca.org.



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