Treadmill training may improve gait disorders associated with neurodegenerative diseases. In Parkinson’s disease (PD), treadmill training alters gait patterns after one session, and long-term training improves gait parameters, fall risk, and quality of life.
What is the feasibility and safety of using this intervention for people with Lewy body dementia (LBD) or Huntington’s disease (HD)?
In this observational study, 10 individuals with HD, 8 individuals with LBD, and 10 control individuals walked for 20 min on a treadmill using a speed dependent protocol starting at a slow comfortable speed and increasing incrementally toward their normal overground speed. Feasibility was determined by compliance to protocol and safety by no incidents of abnormal vital signs or expressions of distress. Changes in gait measures, Timed Up and Go (TUG) scores and quantitative motor function measures (Q-Motor; precision grasp force variability, finger and foot tapping frequency) before and after treadmill walking were analyzed using linear models.
Treadmill training is feasible and safe in LBD and HD; although, participants could not initiate treadmill walking at their comfortable overground speeds, and only 3 participants with HD were able to achieve their overground walking speed within the 20-minute session. No changes in gait measures, TUG times, and Q-Motor measures were found among LBD and HD participants after treadmill walking, although control participants demonstrated significant increases in several gait measures, and foot tap frequency (estimated difference = 0.290; p = 0.026).
Longer and more frequent treadmill sessions may be needed to see gait and motor function effects in LBD and HD. Motor and cognitive impairments associated with these diseases may make them less amenable to the effects of treadmill training.