Initial Baseline Testing

Module Objectives:

  • Understand the need for Initial Baseline Testing
  • Learn how to conduct the initial assessment to gauge starting fitness level

Initial Baseline Testing

Most of your Parkinson’s Cycling Class participants will be aerobically challenged or deconditioned.  Many will have no history of regular physical exercise.  We know that it is important to run everyone through an initial test or assessment to get a sense of where they are both cardiovascular as well as observing their ability.

What does aerobically deconditioned mean?  Aerobically deconditioned means that an aerobic base is not present.  Aerobic refers to the energy created using the cardiovascular system.  These riders will need to slowly build an aerobic base.  An aerobic base is needed to use oxygen efficiently during exercise.   This base can be built in approximately 6-12 weeks of aerobic exercise by adding more duration to the interval rides.

The benefits of a strong aerobic base are many.  Some of these benefits which relate to the Parkinson’s Cycling Program are:

1.  Better performance- Aerobic exercise provides a more productive and efficient  use of oxygen.

2. Increased energy by reducing fatigue-  The more efficient the heart is, the better the pumping action of oxygen to the muscles of the body.  More efficiency results in more energy and less fatigue.

3. Aid in sleeping and less tension-  Exercise can create better balance in the body.  This creates a better environment for the release of tension, rest and sleep.

4.  Overall better stamina- As the heart becomes stronger and more efficient the blood and oxygen are pumped without adding any more energy to the process.  Everyday activities become easier.

5. Psychological benefits- Research has documented that as little as 30 minutes of exercise per day can result in less anxiety, stress, and depression.

6.  Lowered risk of heart disease- Aerobic exercise has been shown to favorably impact serum cholesterol and blood pressure.

It is important to monitor the Parkinson’s rider’s  first “personalized assessment test” closely. This will be the baseline for his/her success in the Parkinson’s Cycling Program.

Baseline testing of the participant is to determine initial RPM’s, working heart rate, maximum sustainable power, and time interval for work effort.

Here’s where you can help your new participants understand the difference between voluntary cadence and forced exercise cadences in the ranges (80 – 90 RPM) where the symptomatic relief occurs. Coach Kathy explains:

The initial baseline class / testing takes approximately 20 minutes.

The Initial Baseline Testing Protocol

The instructor stands beside the rider as he/she begins to pedal. Briefly describe the assessment test to the rider explaining what will take place over the next 20 minutes.  Allow them to ask any questions or express concerns at this time.  Most of these riders have never performed an assessment test or used a stationary bike.  Some have never been to a gym or fitness facility.  The coach’s job will be crucial here.  The coach provides the instructions to the rider and the encouragement needed.  At the same time the coach will be assessing  the rider’s physical abilities.  Record all results in your rider information binder > see sample forms.

Initial Baseline Testing Protocol
1. Set up the Parkinson’s Cycling Participant correctly on the bike > see bike setup page for more information.

2. The Parkinson’s coach promotes diaphragmatic breathing  ( allowing the belly then the chest to expand) or “nose” breathing during the warm up and throughout the ride.

3.  Encourage water consumption.

4.  The coach should encourage the rider to increase the cadence or Rpms approximately 10% every minute.

5. Resistance or power can be added but typically Rpm seems to be sufficient in achieving the goal here.

6.  Monitor and record heart rate and RPM every minute. If power is used, record the wattage.

7. Record the observations made during this Assessment test.

The assessment test begins with:

  1. 1-10 minutes- Warm up with Voluntary RPM. Most riders will be at a 55-60 RPM. Encourage the rider to stay at the cadence that he or she is most comfortable. The coach will encourage conversation and allow the rider to talk comfortably.
  2. 10-11 minutes @ 66RPMs
  3. 11-12 mins- 72 RPMs
  4. 12-13 mins- 79 RPMs
  5. 13-14 mins- 86 RPMS
  6. 14-20 minutes- 90 RPMs

Assessment Test is Complete

Make sure the rider is recovered fully before stepping off the bike.

20 minutes is a good indicator to determine the aerobic threshold for the participant at that time.  If a participant can not complete the assessment for any reason, the assessment is complete. This does not preclude them from participating in the program. You will have enough information to help coach the participants towards success.

This baseline test can and should be done again in 2 weeks after the program begins and every 2 weeks as the aerobic base is being established.  It can be done during the class itself by the instructor or in another 1:1 meeting. The results are usually slightly improved and very encouraging to the rider.  Improvement in flexibility is often seen and work effort is stronger after a few weeks of consistently coming to the Parkinson’s Cycling Program.