The Cardiorespiratory Demands of Treadmill Walking with and without the Use of Ekso GT™ within Able-Bodied Participants: A Feasibility Study

Damien Duddy, Rónán Doherty, James Connolly, Johnny Loughrey, Joan Condell, David Hassan, Maria Faulkner

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Abstract

Individuals with neurological impairments tend to lead a predominantly sedentary lifestyle due to impaired gait function and mobility. This may be detrimental to health by negatively impacting cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength, and increasing the risk of developing secondary health problems. Powered exoskeletons are assistive devices that may aid neurologically impaired individuals in achieving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) physical activity (PA) guidelines for health. Increased PA should elicit a sufficient cardiorespiratory stimulus to provide health benefits to exoskeleton users. This study examined the cardiorespiratory demands of treadmill walking with and without the Ekso GT™ among able-bodied participants. The Ekso GT™ is a powered exoskeleton that enables individuals with neurological impairments to walk by supporting full body mass with motors attached at the hip and knee joints to generate steps. This feasibility study consisted of one group of healthy able-bodied individuals (n = 8). Participants completed two 12 min treadmill walking assessments, one with and one without the Ekso GT™ at the same fixed speed. Throughout each walking bout, various cardiorespiratory parameters, namely, volume of oxygen per kilogram (kg) of body mass (V˙O2·kg−1), volume of carbon dioxide per kg of body mass (V˙CO2·kg−1), respiratory exchange ratio (RER), ventilation (V˙E), heart rate (HR), and rate of perceived exertion (RPE), were recorded. Treadmill walking with Ekso GT™ elevated all recorded measurements to a significantly greater level (p ≤ 0.05) (except RER at 1 km·h−1; p = 0.230) than treadmill walking without the Ekso GT™ did at the same fixed speed. An increased cardiorespiratory response was recorded during treadmill walking with the exoskeleton. Exoskeleton walking may, therefore, be an effective method to increase PA levels and provide sufficient stimulus in accordance with the PA guidelines to promote cardiorespiratory fitness and subsequently enhance overall health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6176
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number10
Early online date19 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2022

Keywords

  • exoskeleton
  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • neurological impairments
  • physical activity
  • oxygen consumption
  • quality of life
  • Oxygen
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Walking - physiology
  • Exoskeleton Device
  • Exercise Test - methods

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