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MANKATO — We all know regular exercise is beneficial, but it may be even more important for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The National Parkinson Foundation goes as far as calling exercise a “vital” component in symptom management and slowing the disease’s progression.

With that idea in mind, the Mankato Family YMCA is starting a new program for people with Parkinson’s. The Pedaling for Parkinson’s class will be similar to a spin stationary bike class, but with closer monitoring.

Members will pedal away in the studio twice per week for 12 weeks at an 80 to 90 revolutions per minute pace, which organizers say is the ideal exertion level for this special population.

“The studies that have been done on this, it slows the progression of the disease,” said Teresa Langworthy, LiveStrong coordinator at the YMCA. “It helps daily symptoms.”

Langworthy and two others are receiving training to lead the classes. Although the program won’t start until September, registration begins later this month and Langworthy said interest in the class is already picking up.

Bicycling is by no means a cure for Parkinson’s, but the benefits of that type of exercise are certainly real, said Dr. Andrew Reeves, neurologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

“There’s been increased interest in getting people with Parkinson’s to do exercises that do more rapid but safe movements to keep the circuits going as well as possible for as long as possible,” he said.

This approach is a shift from what symptom management used to look like, he said.

“In the last decade there has been a shift away from the ‘Take it easy and don’t overtax yourself’ approach to the ‘Be as physically active as you can be as long as you can be approach,’” he said.

Not all exercises are the same, though. Jumping rope, for example, could lead to more injuries for older patients. In contrast, bicycling on a stationary bike works particularly well as long as the individual is able to climb on and off the bike.

The YMCA offers a few different classes for special populations, including its LiveStrong program for people with cancer. With Minnesota’s Parkinson’s disease rate among the highest in the country — and Mankato designated as a Parkinson's friendly community — the decision was made to add the class.

“We wanted to touch other groups of people,” said Stephanie Fischer, the Y’s director of healthy living.

Cost for the class will be $240, which includes a family membership to the YMCA for the duration of the program. Registration will start July 24 for gym members, then open up to anyone else on July 27. For more information, call the YMCA at 507-387-8255.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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