New walking app big step forward for Parkinson’s

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New walking app big step forward for Parkinson’s

New walking app big step forward for Parkinson’s

Walking Tall is a new mobile application to help people with Parkinson’s to walk better and for longer. Co-designed by people with Parkinson’s and led by UNSW biomedical engineer Dr Matthew A Brodie, a key feature of the app is its gait re-training tool, which allows users to personalise their training time and pace, using metronomic beats tailored for three distinct walking speeds to stimulate movement.

The app, aptly named Walking Tall uses a unique gait re-training tool that allows users to set their own training time and pace. It delivers a rhythmic metronomic beat for three different walking speeds, designed to trigger movement and encourage better walking patterns.

“We’re training [patients] in gait adaptability. Sometimes they also need to [visualize] a walking style because often people with [Parkinson’s disease] suffer from hypokinesia where their movements are not actually as big as they feel they are,” Brodie said. “So we are encouraging them to take exaggerated steps, which will actually be more like regular steps.”

In a clinical trial involving 62 patients, half of the participants used the software to train their gait, while the others followed a traditional walking program known as the Otago Exercise Program (OEP).

The results showed that those using the technology trained for an average of 150 minutes per week, compared to only 60 minutes for those following the traditional OEP.

The positive feedback from trial participants led the researchers to develop the app further, incorporating specific training sessions split into five different walks, along with rest periods.

Walking Tall Health’s chief science officer Martin Ostrowski is living with Parkinson’s and was one of the co-developers. “I think an app like this empowers people living with Parkinson’s to have some control over helping themselves,” he said, adding it “gives me that beat that means I am able to walk without using all of that mental effort.”

“I use the app about once a day for 10-15 minutes, walking roughly 1km round the block, but in as little as six minutes people with Parkinson’s can get a benefit,” Ostrowski said.

“People living with Parkinson’s Disease have to think about every single step they take. We asked them how much mental effort it takes for them to walk, and often they would say 100%,” explained Dr Matthew A Brodie.

“This app can give people confidence and also a sense of achievement that they can be empowered and do something for themselves to help their own condition.”