Purpose: Recent studies suggest that walking on a treadmill improves gait, mobility, and quality of life of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Still, there is a need for larger-scale randomized controlled studies that demonstrate the advantages of treadmill training (TT) with control groups that receive similar amounts of attention. Moreover, to date, no study has combined speed and incline as parameters of progression. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of 24 wk of TT, with and without the use of incline, on gait, mobility and quality of life in patients with PD.
Methods: The sample comprised 34 patients with PD, at the Hoehn and Yahr stage 1.5 or 2. Participants were randomized to speed TT, mixed TT, and control groups. The intervention consisted of 72 one-hour exercise sessions for 24 wk. The main outcome measures are the Movement Disorder Society–Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, the 39-item Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire, spatiotemporal parameters of gait and 6-min walking distance. The measures were taken at baseline, mid-term and after 6 months.
Results: Both TT groups improved in terms of speed, cadence, and stride length during self-selected walking conditions at the study end point. Both groups also showed improvements in distance traveled. Only the Mixed TT group improved their quality of life. The Control group showed no progress.
Conclusions: Participants in this study showed significant improvements in walking speed and walking endurance after 6 months of TT. Improvements were observed after 3 months of intensive TT and persisted at 6 months. It appears that individuals with poorer baseline performance may benefit most from TT.