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A new app, co-designed by people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), has been launched to help those living with the condition learn to walk better and for longer.

A team at the University of New South Wales, Sydney  developed the Walking Tall app following a clinical trial funded by the Shake It Up Australia Foundation and the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Part of the trial utilized the app’s gait re-training tool, which allows users to set their own training time and pace before delivering a rhythmic metronomic beat for three different walking speeds that is designed to trigger movement.

People with PD can find walking a major challenge given the fact nerve cells deep in their brain responsible for planning and controlling body movement do not fully function. Therefore, gait becomes impaired, their coordination decreases and step length can be severely affected.

With the metronome beat of the app, the aim is to replace the need to think about walking, which can take up to 100% of a person with PD's mental energy,  and help with the timing of steps.

In the clinical trials, which included 62 people with PD, half were able to use a version of the app to help train their gait, while the others followed an existing walking program known as the Otago Exercise Program (OEP).

After 13 weeks, and after analysis of self-reported feedback from those involved in the trial, the investigators found that those following the traditional OEP training were exercising for around only 60 minutes per week on average, while those using the app trained for 150 minutes.

According to the authors, the app lowers the barriers for people with PD to train themselves to walk, and that doing as little as six minutes a day, three days a week, will still help.

The app, which is free to download from the iOS and Android stores, also includes instructions such as "walk tall," "shoulders back,"’ and "focus on big steps," as well as providing encouragement via audio commentary.

To learn more about the clinical trial, click here

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