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NeuroRehabilitation. 2005;20(4):307-22.

The effects of loading and unloading treadmill walking on balance, gait, fall risk, and daily function in Parkinsonism.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, Food & Exercise Sciences, College of Human Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1493, USA.


Our study aims were: 1) to determine whether assisted weight bearing or additional weight bearing is more beneficial to the improvement of function and increased stability in gait and dynamic balance in patients with Parkinsonism, compared with matched controls (treadmill alone). Twenty-three men and women participants (M +/- SD = 74.5 +/- 9.7 yrs; Males = 19, Females = 4) with Parkinsonism were in the study. Participants staged at 1-7 (M +/- SD = 3.96 +/- 1.07) using the Hoehn & Yahr scale. All participants were tested before, after the intervention (within one week), and four weeks later on: 1) dynamic posturography, 2) Berg Balance scale, 3) United Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), 4) biomechanical assessment of strength and range of motion, and 5) Gaitrite force sensitive gait mat. Group 1 (treadmill control group), received treadmill training with no loading or unloading. Group 2 (unweighted group), walked on the treadmill assisted by the Biodex Unweighing System at a 25% body weight reduction. Group 3 (weighted group), ambulated wearing a weighted scuba-diving belt, which increased their normal body weight by 5%. All subjects walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes per day for 3 days per week for 6 weeks. Improvements in dynamic posturography, falls during balance testing, Berg Balance, UPDRS (Motor Exam), and gait for all groups lead us to believe that neuromuscular regulation can be facilitated in all Parkinson's individuals no matter what treadmill intervention is employed.

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