It may be possible to counter muscle disuse and improve endurance in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using aerobic cycle training, according to new results that will be presented at the 2023 Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Clinical & Scientific Conference.

The results are based on a home-based, cycle-training program developed specifically for boys with DMD.

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“This study provides the first detailed cycling exercise prescription parameters for ambulatory boys with DMD that are safe and effective,” the researchers wrote. 

To establish an aerobic cycle-training program that is appropriate for patients with DMD, the team led by Lee Sweeney, PhD, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, developed a remotely supervised, cycle-training paradigm lasting 6 months using a custom-built ergometer and exercise prescription parameters typical for clinical populations, which consisted of 15- to 30-minute sessions at 50% to 60% heart rate reserve 3 times a week.

Three boys with DMD, 7 to 9 years of age, who were ambulatory completed the program with more than 85% compliance with their heart rate training zone. The total work per exercise session was progressively increased, and the patients ended up cycling 7 to 10 watts by the end of the study.

The training had no adverse effects, and each boy improved in terms of cycling time to fatigue, peak watts, submaximal heart rate, bone density, and serum casein kinase levels. The boys’ mitochondrial function also improved following the exercise program as shown by phosphocreatine recovery time measures. 

DMD is a rare neuromuscular disease mainly affecting boys that is caused by a mutation in the DMD gene, and it is characterized by progressive muscle wasting and atrophy.

Aerobic cycle training has been shown to counter secondary muscle disuse and induce cardiovascular and muscular adaptations in many muscular disorders. This, in turn, can improve exercise capacity and endurance. 


Taivassalo T, Forbes S, Lott D, et al. Late breaking: heart-rate guided cycle exercise training in boys with DMD: evidence of cardiopulmonary and muscle adaptations. Poster presented at: 2023 Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Clinical & Scientific Conference; March 19-22, 2023; Dallas, TX.