Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Education (PED)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Meridee Danks


Introduction: Parkinson's Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects motor planning and motor function. Symptoms associated with this disease include bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, and postural instability. These symptoms are often accompanied by gait disturbances including decreased step length, arm swing, and gait velocity, as well as diminished trunk rotation and postural instability all which make functional mobility increasingly difficult. Conventional walking has been shown to be an effective physical activity to maintain mobility and improve function and overall fitness. Specifically, walking speed has been identified as a crucial predictor for fall risk which is why clinicians have identified walking speed as the sixth vital sign. Pole walking has gained popularity over the years and may provide additional benefits when compared to conventional walking. These benefits include improved stride and step length, faster gait velocity and cadence, improved posture, flexibility, and strength, as well as improved cardiovascular responses following exercise.

Purpose: The purpose of this case series is to determine the effects of the use of walking poles in physical functioning, stability, balance, and posture in individuals with mild to moderate Parkinson's Disease.

Methods: Four individuals (3 males, I female) with mild to moderate Parkinson's Disease (Hoehn and Yarn Stages 1-3) participated and completed pre- and postassessments and surveys. The assessments consisted of gait analysis through the use of the GAITRite, postural analysis, strength, flexibility, and a dynamic balance assessment. All participants were provided and fit with walking poles, and were provided general instructions on walking technique. All subjects participated in a six week walking program two days per week for 45 minutes sessions including warm-up, pole walking, and cool-down.

Results: Data analysis consisted of improved percent change of pre-assessment and postassessment examinations including posture, gait parameters, flexibility, and functional outcome measures. Overall, positive changes were evident in gait parameters such as gait velocity, cadence, step length, stride length, and stride width in all participants. Additional changes were evident in the DGI, 5xSTS, and flexibility. Subjectively, positive changes were noted among the PDQ-39, UPDRS-111, and perception of improved posture, and positive social engagement in all participants.

Conclusion: Based on the evidence provided from this case series, it can be concluded that the use of walking poles with individuals with Parkinson's Disease may be an effective intervention for maintenance of strength, range of motion, coordination, and multiple gait parameters. Pole walking is appropriate for improvement of these factors as well as enhanced quality of life for individuals with Parkinson's Disease, and allows for active participation and an optimistic approach to exercise. Due to the progressive nature of Parkinson's Disease, further research may be required with longer duration training, and larger study populations to verify whether or not walking poles may be included within conventional rehabilitation programs recommended for individuals with Parkinson's Disease.