Pedaling for Parkinson's

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:33 AM

Smith, a Grand Haven resident, takes medication and had electrodes implanted in his brain to control his symptoms. His most recent form of treatment includes tandem biking through a program called Pedaling for Parkinson’s.

In the fall of 2011, the Tri-Cities Family YMCA, Generation Care and North Ottawa County Council on Aging formed a partnership. After hearing the benefits of tandem biking, the three organizations banded together to help community members battling the disease.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Each year some 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease.

Based on a research project, people with the disease who attended 40-minute sessions three times a week and biked revolution speeds of 80 rpm to 90 rpm often experienced better mobility, said Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, president of Generation Care.

“It provides a lot of different options because Parkinson’s is such a progressive disease,” she said. “Some have mild tremors, and some are completely wheelchair-bound. I think we having something for everyone.”

Smith,79, said he’s in better shape since he started biking. He attends sessions at Tri-Cities Family YMCA, 1 Y Drive in Grand Haven.

“Nothing cures it,” Smith said. “Anything that gets it further away is good.”

Grand Haven resident Char Stewart cheers on participants during the sessions at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA.

“It’s a time for them to feel normal,” Stewart said. “It’s OK to have symptoms here. They encourage each other.”

Muskegon resident Gary Church volunteers his time to ride with Bob O’Brien at Generation Care, 945 E. Sherman Blvd. in Muskegon. After watching two people in his life battle the disease, Church wanted to help.

“I’m trying to make a difference to make Bob’s life better,” Church said.

When Muskegon resident Elaine Markham lost her sense of smell, she thought she had a brain tumor. In 2002, tests showed she had Parkinson’s.

The 79-year-old began Pedaling for Parkinson’s this year. After just six weeks of tandem biking at Generation Care, she cut her medication in half.

Although Markham is beginning to have speech problems, she keeps a positive attitude.

“With Parkinson’s you have to control it and not let it control you,” Markham said.

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