Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2022 Jun 14. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.22.07549-9. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: People with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) have difficulty participating in exercise. The primary objective of this pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to determine if 8 weeks (2x per week) of bilateral exoskeleton (Exo) exercise results in positive changes in cognition and participation in adults with PD compared to exercising without an exoskeleton (Nxo) or wait-list control (Con).
DESIGN: Open-label, parallel, pilot randomized controlled trial.
SETTING: Neurorehabilitation clinic in a large urban centre.
SUBJECTS: Adults 50-85 years old with a confirmed diagnosis of PD.
INTERVENTIONS: Eight weeks of twice-weekly combined aerobic, strength and mobility exercise or waitlist control. Participants were randomly assigned to exercise with no exoskeleton (Nxo), exercise with the exoskeleton (Exo), or waitlist control (Con).
METHODS: Primary endpoints were change in cognitive function (SCOPA-COG) and mood. Secondary endpoints were change in gait speed, six-minute walk test (6MWT), freezing of gait, balance, and PDspecific health and quality of life outcomes. Safety endpoint was analysis of adverse events (AE).
RESULTS: Forty participated in the trial (Exo, n=13; Nxo, n=14; Con, n=13). Significant improvement in the Memory & Learning domain of the SCOPA-COG (p=.014) and 6MWT (p=.008) were detected for the Exo group compared to the Nxo and/or Con group. No other statistically significant between-groups effects were found. There were no serious or unanticipated AE.
CONCLUSIONS: Functional exercise with a low-profile overground exoskeleton showed promising results for improving memory and gait endurance in people with PD across HY stages I-IV.
CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: Exoskeletons can improve participation in high-intensity exercise.