Gait retraining to reduce falls: An experimental study toward scalable and personalised use in the home

Conor Wall, Peter McMeekin, Richard Walker, Alan Godfrey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Age-related neurological conditions can result in poor mobility typified by gait abnormalities and falls, increasing risk of frailty and lowering quality of life. In the UK, the expense and inaccessibility of services to improve mobility through gait training (eg, auditory cueing) is a public health issue. Contemporary and scalable pervasive technologies for widespread public use could provide an affordable and accessible solution. We aimed to show the preliminary efficacy of a novel smartphone app that provides a personalised approach to mobility and gait assessment while facilitating gait training. METHODS: In this experimental study, we recruited participants aged 22-46 years with no physical functional impairments (ie, no age-related neurological condition and who could walk unaided) from Northumbria University staff (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) between April 19, and May 26. Participants wore a smartphone on their lower back. Inertial data from the smartphone were recorded during two walks, one at a self-selected pace and the other with a personalised auditory cue via headphones (+10% pace on walk 1). Smartphone app functionality enabled the measurement of clinically relevant gait characteristics via a Python-based Cloud server. We compared smartphone-based mobility or gait characteristics with a gold-standard reference (Opal Mobility Lab, APDM). We used Pearson and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC2,1) to examine agreement between the novel app and reference. The study ran from April 4 to July 21, 2023. This study received ethics approval from the Northumbria University Ethics committee, and all participants provided written informed consent. FINDINGS: Ten adults were recruited (six women and four men; mean age 27·4 years [SD 6·2], mean weight 79·6 kg [SD 12·7], mean height 174·7 cm [SD 7·9]). High levels of agreement were found between the smartphone app and reference, quantified by Pearson (≥0·858) and ICC values (≥0·911). The personalised cueing intervention increased the mean cadence by an average of 11%, which shows good participant adherence to cueing via an app. INTERPRETATION: Here, we propose a contemporary approach to increase the accessibility to a health-based intervention. Preliminary findings suggest the smartphone app is a suitable tool for personalised mobility or gait assessment while facilitating gait training. Use of a scalable app could be an accessible and affordable method for improving mobility to reduce falls in the home. Here, current limitations are the lack of investigation with the smartphone app for neurological gait assessment on older adults and the lack of information on participants app experience, but this will be included in future work. The pervasive use of smartphones enables a decentralised approach to overcoming issues such as frailty and logistical challenges of travelling to bespoke clinics. FUNDING: National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North-East and North Cumbria (NENC); Faculty of Engineering and Environment at Northumbria University.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S92
Number of pages1
JournalThe Lancet
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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