Gait dysfunction is an early problem identified by patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Alterations in gait may result in an increase in the energy cost of walking (i.e., walking economy). The purpose of this study was to determine whether walking economy is atypical in patients with PD when compared with healthy controls. A secondary purpose was to evaluate the associations of age, sex, and level of disease severity with walking economy in patients with PD. The rate of oxygen consumption (VO(2)) and other responses to treadmill walking were compared in 90 patients (64.4 +/- 10.3 years) and 44 controls (64.6 +/- 7.3 years) at several walking speeds. Pearson correlation coefficients (r) were calculated to determine relationships of age, sex, and disease state with walking economy in PD patients. Walking economy was significantly worse in PD patients than in controls at all speeds above 1.0 mph. Across all speeds, VO(2) was 6 to 10% higher in PD patients. Heart rate, minute ventilation, respiratory exchange ratio, and rating of perceived exertion were correspondingly elevated. No significant relationship of age, sex, or UPDRS score with VO(2) was found for patients with PD. The findings suggest that the physiologic stress of daily physical activities is increased in patients with early to mid-stage PD, and this may contribute to the elevated level of fatigue that is characteristic of PD.
Copyright 2009 Movement Disorder Society.