New app is a step towards helping people with Parkinson’s walk more confidently
Monday, 7th August 2023

Dr Matthew A Brodie shows off new Walking Tall app

Content originally published on the UNSW website.

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

A team led by UNSW Sydney biomedical engineer Dr Matthew A Brodie developed the Walking Tall app following a recent clinical trial in 62 people with Parkinson’s disease funded by Shake It Up Australia Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and conducted at Neuroscience Research Australia’s state-of-the-art facilities in Sydney. 

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

“Parkinson’s is a big problem in Australia and it’s exciting to see these new diagnostic tools and interventions coming online” says Shake It Up Australia CEO Vicki Miller.

While the majority of people take walking for granted, those with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can find it a major challenge given the fact nerve cells deep in their brain responsible for planning and controlling body movement do not fully function. Subsequently, people with PD often find their gait becomes impaired, their coordination decreases and step length can be severely affected. Gait dysfunction can therefore impact negatively on quality of life and independence and leads to falls in around 70 per cent of those with PD.

“Those who live with Parkinson’s disease have to think about every single step they take. We asked them how much mental effort it takes for them to walk, and often they would say 100 per cent,” says Dr Matthew A. Brodie.  

“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.

“My goal in terms of my research is to have an impact now, not an impact in 10 years’ time. And I believe this app can help people with Parkinson’s Disease all around the world right now.”

In the clinical trials, after 13 weeks, and after analysis of self-reported feedback from those involved in the trial, it was found that those following the app trained for 150 minutes compared to 60 minutes using another program.

It’s all about listening to what people need, keeping it simple and building trust. The app targets consistency of walking and lowers the barriers to effective training. We have seen that using the app for just few minutes every day to retrain gait can make a big difference. The more people that now use our app and give feedback, the better we will make the next version, says Walking Tall’s Chief Science Officer Dr Martin Ostrowski, who lives with Parkinson’s disease himself. 

“Michael J Fox has said Parkinson’s is the gift that keeps on taking. But I think an app like this empowers people living with Parkinson’s to have some control over helping themselves and realising they can still have a long and productive life.”

Read more about the app and its launch on the UNSW website.

Try it on iOS:  

Try it on Android:

Screenshot of Walking Tall app