Senior author Mark Tarnopolsky says that cycling for 35 min at least 3 times a week for 12 weeks led to a 32% increase in overall fitness and other health benefits. Patients who took part in the study also saw a 1.6 kg increase in their muscle mass and a 2% reduction of body fat. At the end of the 12-week trial, the patients were also able to walk an extra 47 m in 6 min.
Tarnopolsky’s team recruited 11 patients with MD to see how effective cycling was in restoring and maintaining their physical health and fitness. The researchers also studied the basic molecular mechanisms by which exercise strengthens skeletal muscles that can be severely weakened by MD.
“Exercise really is medicine we just need to get the message out,” said Tarnopolsky, a professor of the departments of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University.
“Myotonic dystrophy is a progressive condition that will impair your mobility and can put you in a wheelchair. There is no cure for it and only regular exercise helps you achieve better function.“
According to Tarnopolsky, some patients with MD are advised by their doctors not to exercise for fear of deteriorating their health and fitness, but that has now been proven wrong.
The authors of the study claim that previous research on mouse models showed similar physiological benefits from regular exercise and fitness plans.
According to Tarnopolsky, MD is the most common type of muscular dystrophy found in adults, and the second most common of all muscular dystrophies.
The main symptoms of MD include severe skeletal muscle atrophy, generalized muscle weakness, decreased lung function, and impaired cardiac function, even when you are in a fitness group. Other symptoms include cataracts, endocrine disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders. Tarnopolsky said that about 19,000 Canadians live with MD or another type of tendon disorder.
“MD itself is really a form of accelerated aging,” said Tarnopolsky.