The effects of simulated horseback riding on balance and quality of life in older adults with Parkinson's disease
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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized as a chronic, progressive movement disorder. Motor symptoms may include posture and balance dysfunction. Non-motor symptoms may include changes in cognition, sleep patterns, and mood. Any combination of these symptoms can impact quality of life (QoL). Horseback riding may be an effective modality to slow the progression of symptoms in those with PD. The use of a simulator can be a cost-effective option to horseback riding in a therapeutic setting. The purpose of this investigation was to determine changes in balance and QoL following 6 weeks of simulated horseback riding (SHBR) in older adults diagnosed with PD. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 10 older adults with PD, 40 to 80 years of age, from across northern Texas. Participants completed a 6-week SHBR intervention that consisted of two, 60-min riding sessions per week. Aspects of postural sway, static and dynamic balance, and QoL were measured 6 weeks before, 1-week before, and immediately after the intervention. Pre-Intervention dynamic balance scores were significantly lower than Baseline scores (25.86 ± 4.36 vs. 28.25 ± 3.81; p = .001). Total balance scores at Pre-Intervention were also lower than Baseline (45.86 ± 6.42 vs. 48.36 ± 5.97; p = .050), and were increased at Post-Intervention when compared to Pre-Intervention (50.00 ± 4.38 vs. 45.88 ± 6.42; p = .002). No significant differences across time points were reported for measurements of postural sway, including reaction time and directional control. Only the cognitive impairment dimension of QoL exhibited statistical significance, as Post-Intervention scores were lower than Baseline (21.5 ± 14.4 vs. 37.5 ± 20.5; p = .007). Six weeks of simulated horseback riding may significantly improve overall balance and cognitive impairment in older adults with PD.