Even though exercise is known to be healthy, many people find it difficult to maintain an exercise program for a longer time. This applies even more to people with a chronic illness such as Parkinson’s disease, where physical and mental limitations are additional obstacles. The Park-in-Shape study, funded by ZonMW (Netherlands Organization for Health Research & Development), tested an innovative solution for this challenge. The participants were divided into two groups. Both groups had a motivational app at their disposal, which offered the participants rewards for exercising. The control group only performed stretching exercises, while the active intervention group was instructed to exercise for 30-45 minutes on a stationary bicycle at home, at least three times a week.
The active group’s exercise bikes were also equipped with motivating games, making the program more entertaining and challenging for the participants. For example, the participants could race against their own previous performance — a “ghost rider” — or against a group of other cyclists. The system adjusted the difficulty of the game to the patient’s heartbeat, making the challenge just right. The challenges also became more difficult as the participants got fitter.