New app designed by Parkinson’s patients aids improved walking abilities

UNSW biomedical engineer, Dr Matthew A Brodie, developed the Walking Tall app in collaboration with people who are living with Parkinson's Disease.

A groundbreaking mobile application, designed in collaboration with individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), has been introduced to enhance the walking abilities and endurance of those grappling with the condition.

The Walking Tall app, developed under the leadership of Dr Matthew A Brodie, a biomedical engineer from UNSW Sydney, has emerged as a result of a clinical trial supported by the Shake It Up Australia Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

A key feature of the app is its gait re-training tool, which allows users to personalise their training time and pace, subsequently delivering a rhythmic metronomic beat tailored for three distinct walking speeds to stimulate movement.

The app, available for free download on iOS and Android platforms, offers essential instructions such as ‘walk tall,’ ‘shoulders back,’ and ‘focus on big steps.’ It also includes motivational audio commentary to encourage users.

Individuals affected by Parkinson’s Disease often encounter difficulties in walking due to impaired nerve cells in their brain responsible for regulating body movement. This impairment can lead to gait dysfunction, coordination issues, and a reduction in step length, negatively impacting their quality of life and independence.

Approximately 10 million people worldwide, including 150,000 in Australia alone, are living with Parkinson’s Disease. Shake It Up Australia Foundation CEO Vicki Miller emphasised the significance of the new app as a diagnostic tool and intervention for individuals facing this challenge.

The App’s development involved direct input and suggestions from individuals living with PD. Dr Brodie noted the intense mental effort required for people with PD to execute each step. The app’s metronome beat aims to alleviate this mental strain by facilitating the timing of their movements.

Dr Brodie shared, “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.”

During the clinical trial, 62 participants with PD were divided into two groups, with one group using the Walking Tall app’s gait re-training tool while the other followed a traditional walking program. After 13 weeks, participants using the app demonstrated significantly longer exercise durations compared to the conventional program group.

The Walking Tall app’s continued development aims to provide immediate benefits to individuals with PD based on the favourable feedback received during the trial. The app now features specific training sessions catering to various needs, including different walking speeds and rest intervals.

Dr Martin Ostrowski, Chief Science Officer of Walking Tall Health and a person living with Parkinson’s Disease himself highlighted the app’s simplicity, consistency, and ability to lower barriers to effective training. He emphasised the positive impact on gait and mobility, enabling individuals with PD to have greater control over their condition and maintain a productive life.

This innovative solution holds the potential to significantly improve the lives of millions worldwide affected by Parkinson’s Disease, and its further development continues through collaboration with research institutions and industry partners.


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