Feasibility of a virtual exercise coach to promote walking in community-dwelling persons with Parkinson disease

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Jun;92(6):472-81; quiz 482-5. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e31828cd466.


Objective: The short-term benefits of exercise for persons with Parkinson disease (PD) are well established, but long-term adherence is limited. The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of a virtual exercise coach to promote daily walking in community-dwelling persons with Parkinson disease.

Design: Twenty subjects with Parkinson disease participated in this phase 1, single-group, nonrandomized clinical trial. The subjects were instructed to interact with the virtual exercise coach for 5 mins, wear a pedometer, and walk daily for 1 mo. Retention rate, satisfaction, and interaction history were assessed at 1 mo. Six-minute walk and gait speed were assessed at baseline and after the intervention.

Results: Fifty-five percent of the participants were women, and the mean age was 65.6 yrs. At the study completion, there was 100% retention rate. The subjects had a mean satisfaction score of 5.6/7 (with 7 indicating maximal satisfaction) with the virtual exercise coach. Interaction history revealed that the participants logged in for a mean (SD) of 25.4 (7) days of the recommended 30 days. The mean adherence to daily walking was 85%. Both gait speed and the 6-min walk test significantly improved (P < 0.05). No adverse events were reported.

Conclusions: Sedentary persons with Parkinson disease successfully used a computer and interacted with a virtual exercise coach. Retention, satisfaction, and adherence to daily walking were high for 1 mo, and significant improvements were seen in mobility.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / diagnosis
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Participation / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Walking / physiology*