Regular cycling ‘greatly improves’ mobility in patients with muscle degeneration disease: Hamilton researchers at McMaster University

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Published April 18, 2022 at 10:41 am

Regular cycling 'greatly improves' mobility in patients with muscle degeneration disease: Hamilton researchers at McMaster University
Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton found that regular cycling can "greatly improve" mobility in patients with myotonic dystrophy (MD). 

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton found that regular cycling can “greatly improve” mobility in patients with the genetic muscle degeneration disease known as myotonic dystrophy (MD).

According to senior author Mark Tarnopolsky, cycling for 35 minutes, three times a week, for 12 weeks led to a 32 per cent increase in overall fitness in people with MD.

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“Exercise really is medicine. We just need to get the message out,” Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine, told McMaster University’s Fram Dinshaw.

Study participants also saw a 1.6-kilogram increase in their muscle mass and a two per cent reduction in body fat. Patients were also able to walk an extra 47 metres and six minutes by the end of the 12-week trial.

Researchers also studied the underlying molecular mechanisms that led to exercise strengthening the skeletal muscles.

Regular cycling 'greatly improves' mobility in patients with muscle degeneration disease: Hamilton researchers at McMaster University

“MD is a progressive condition that will impair your mobility and can put you in a wheelchair,” said Tarnopolsky. “There is no cure for it and only regular exercise helps patients achieve better function.”

“It is really a form of accelerated aging,” he added.

Tarnopolsky says some MD patients are even advised by their doctors not to exercise, for fear of making their condition worse. The study showed that the theory is false.

MD is the most commonly diagnosed type of muscular dystrophy in adults and the second-most prevalent of all muscular dystrophies.

The disease’s main symptoms include severe skeletal muscle atrophy, general muscle weakness, reduced lung capacity, and impaired heart function. Other symptoms may include cataracts, endocrine disorders including diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Roughly 19,000 individuals live with MD or another type of muscular dystrophy in Canada.

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