Parkinson's patients find relief by pedaling

- If you walk by the spin class at the South Tampa Family YMCA on Tuesday or Thursday at 10 a.m., you will see people pedaling at full speed. It has all the sights and sounds of a normal spin class. However, these participants are anything but average: They all suffer from Parkinson's disease.

As many as one million Americans are living with Parkinson's. There is no cure, but recent studies have shown that pedaling a bicycle at a rapid pace can decrease symptoms by 35 percent.

Ralph Seng started seeing his symptoms last summer. "I said, there is something wrong with me, I'm shaking and I can't understand it. I used to shuffle my feet so much where I ran into a wall to stop me because it was that bad," he explained.

After a couple months of spin, Ralph sees improvement. "I'm not running into walls anymore, I can drive a car a lot better."

Those are results ninety year old newcomer Amy Shimberg hopes to share some day. Poor balance has taken its toll on her daily life. "I miss working in my yard and gardening'" she complained. "I heard about it and was very anxious to do everything I can to help myself."

An amazing thing happens while these normally unsteady patients push their pedals. Their symptoms disappear.

"They shuffle as they walk, they get on that bike, you'd never know that," YMCA group coordinator Melissa Brockman explained.

But organizers say the effects of spinning go far past the physical for these participants.

"It's more than just an exercise class, it's a social environment that allows them cross talk and become comfortable in an environment with folks who are dealing with a lot of the same symptoms as they are," Brockman continued.

"Every question you have, they have an answer and it makes sense. So it’s something to look forward to, the conversations," Seng adds.

With no cure, this YMCA class is offering the medicine Parkinson's patients need most -- exercise and a bit of positive thinking.

"I think we are offering just one little part of that and I think that's a phenomenal thing," Brockman added.

Seng says his goals are to keep his symptoms at bay. "If you can keep it under control as much as possible, then you have a better life day by day."

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