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A Bike Ride Puts Brakes on Parkinson’s Disease

Though Chris Cianci has participated in several charity bicycle tours over the past 20 years, never has a ride felt more personal than it does now -- and he's ensuring his community can participate too.

Chris, of West Chester, will be cycling about 400 miles from Cleveland, OH, to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in Malvern all because of his devotion to his wife and others diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But locals can go along for the ride -- at least at the end of his trip -- in either a 30- or 60-mile loop beginning and ending at the hospital on Oct. 13.

Chris and his wife Jodi founded Shake It Off, Inc., a non profit to raise awareness and money for Parkinson's disease therapy, soon after Jodi was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's disease six months after they married.

Jodi exhibited symptoms such as shoulder and arm pain, deteriorating handwriting and her arms stopped swinging while she walked.

And when doctor diagnosed her with Young Onset Parkinson's disease, the couple sought the opinions of several other physicians. When it became clear that the diagnosis was correct, Chris sought a solution for his wife.

"We searched high and low," he said. "Nothing worked."

But it wasn't until Chris read an article about a Cleveland researcher named Dr. Jay Alberts who said cycling -- one of Chris's own passions -- helped reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

"You can reduce up to 35 percent by maintaining 80-to-90 RPMs by cycling [for 45 minutes three times a week]," said Chris, of Alberts' research.

Chris and Jodi immediately traveled to Cleveland to learn more from meet with Roberts as well as start Jodi on cycling therapy.

"Within a month or two I noticed that Jodi’s handwriting improved quite a bit and her fine motor skills were very much improved," he said. "So we were sticking with it."

To date, Chris said Jodi is not on any drugs for Parkinson's disease, yet is able to funciton normally.

Because of Jodi's success with cycling as therapy -- she takes around three spinning classes a week -- the couple aims to spread the word.

During Chris's tour, he will be speaking to people about his and his wife's experience with the disease.

He'll also have locals ride with him to his destination -- Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital -- where there will be a Family and Friend Fun Day and child's bicycle raffle from 12-to-3 p.m. for non-cyclists. The 60-mile ride starts at 8 a.m. and the 30-mile ride starts at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13.

Registration for the event can be done here.

Money raised will go toward supplying therapy bicycles for those afflicted by Parkinson's disease.


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