A rolling walker--the kind of walker that has wheels on it--can help people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) walk outdoors more easily and for a longer distance, allowing them to get more exercise, according to a small study.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that when 15 COPD patients used a rolling walker they walked further and said they felt much better than when they walked unaided or when they used a bicycle-like device called a draisine. A draisine is a bicycle without pedals that is pushed with the feet.
A rolling walker, which is also called a rollator, is a sturdy metal frame that is either triangular with three wheels or rectangular with four wheels and that has handlebars. They can also be fitted with a seat or a basket for carrying personal items, including the oxygen tank that many COPD patients need.
The study included 15 people with COPD who took three self-paced outdoor walking tests on two consecutive days. In the first test, participants walked unaided, then in the second and third tests they used either the rolling walker and then the draisine or vice versa. Participants walked as long as possible at their own pace. The test ended when they needed to stop or after 30 minutes.
Using the rolling walker, participants were able to walk the longest distance and for the greatest length of time, averaging1,262 meters (1,380 yards) and almost 19 minutes. With the draisine, participants averaged 586 meters (641 yards) and just under eight minutes. Walking unaided, they averaged 985 meters (1,077 yards) and 14.5 minutes. The participants also gave the highest marks to the rolling walker for comfort, safety and security.
COPD can include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both. People with COPD have difficulty breathing, so their daily activities are often restricted by an inability to walk far. They may need oxygen tanks, or inhaled drugs to help their breathing. There is no cure for COPD.