New ‘simple’ app to support Parkinson’s disease sufferers

A new walking app is set to make a difference for Parkinson’s disease sufferers.

Martin Ostrowski used to be able to run 35km a week but after developing Parkinson’s disease, simply walking requires a lot of effort.

“Every day it feels like I have to teach myself how to walk again,” he told 9News.

New app to help Parkinson's disease patients.
Martin Ostrowski now struggles to walk with Parkinson’s disease. (9News)

“People with Parkinson’s have to concentrate on every single step,” UNSW Sydney biomedical engineer Dr Matthew Brodie said.

Parkinson’s disease impairs nerve cells deep in the brain and affects movement for sufferers, often sparking tremors, stiffness and loss of balance.

A new app developed by Sydney scientists and local sufferers like Ostrowski gives patients walking exercises and audio cues for the timing of steps – much like a metronome.

New app to help Parkinson's disease patients.
A new app to help walking. (9News)

“When I first tried the app, I felt the benefits straight away,” he said.

“It’s not like they’re actually following the metronome beat but after time it becomes a part of their system,” Brodie added.

A clinical trial showed that people using the app trained for 150 minutes a week compared to 60 minutes per week using a traditional fall prevention program at home.

“That is a staggering 2.5 times greater. Now 150 minutes is an amazing achievement. Most studies aim for 90 minutes,” Brodie said.

New app to help Parkinson's disease patients.
Dr Matthew Brodie helped pioneer the app. (9News)

The app is free after the Michael J Fox Foundation and Shake It Up Australia provided initial funding.

“We have over 150,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s so it’s a very big problem and it’s great we’ve been able to support this particular project with Dr Brodie,” Shake It Up Australia Foundation CEO Vicki Miller said.

Since its launch, Brodie has received positive feedback from patients around the world even from those with other neurological conditions.  

“It’s so simple to use, that’s the key thing,” Ostrowski said.

“Gives us hope, for living as well as well can today.”

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