Capturing ambulatory activity decline in parkinson's disease

James T. Cavanaugh, Terry D. Ellis, Gammon M. Earhart, Matthew P. Ford, K. Bo Foreman, Leland E. Dibble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Relatively little is known about the natural evolution of physical activity-related participation restrictions associated with Parkinson's disease (PD). We examined this issue prospectively, using continuous monitoring technology to capture the free-living ambulatory activity of persons with PD engaging in life situations. We specifically sought (1) to explore natural, long-term changes in daily ambulatory activity and (2) to compare the responsiveness of ambulatory activity parameters to clinical measures of gait and disease severity. METHODS: Thirty-three persons with PD participated (Hoehn and Yahr range of 1-3). Participants wore a step activity monitor for up to 7 days at baseline and again at 1-year follow-up. Mean daily values were calculated for parameters indicative of amount, intensity, frequency, and duration of ambulatory activity. Clinical measures included the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, the 6-Minute Walk, and Maximal Gait Speed. Parametric tests for paired samples were used to investigate changes in ambulatory activity parameters and clinical measures. RESULTS: Participants had significant declines in the amount and intensity of daily ambulatory activity but not in its frequency and duration (P < 0.007). Declines occurred in the absence of changes in clinical measures of gait or disease severity. The greatest 1-year decline occurred in the number of daily minutes participants spent engaging in at least moderate-intensity ambulatory activity. CONCLUSION: Continuous monitoring of ambulatory activity beyond mere step counts may serve as a distinct and important means of quantifying declining ambulatory behavior associated with disease progression or improved ambulatory behavior resulting from rehabilitation and medical and/or surgical interventions in persons with PD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Parkinson's disease
  • ambulatory activity
  • ambulatorymonitoring


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