Home Bots & Brains ‘Wearable Robot Enhances Mobility and Balance in Elderly’

‘Wearable Robot Enhances Mobility and Balance in Elderly’

by Pieter Werner

A recent study conducted in Korea has shed light on the potential benefits of a wearable hip-assist robot, EX1, in improving the mobility and balance of older adults. This research, primarily focusing on the elderly, examined the effectiveness of EX1 in enhancing their physical functions, particularly in terms of walking and balance.

The aging process often leads to a decrease in muscle mass, especially in the lower limbs, which in turn affects physical activity levels in older adults. This muscle weakening can increase the risk of falls. However, exercises focusing on aerobic and balancing aspects have been found to improve physical function and reduce fall risks in the elderly. In this context, EX1, developed by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., (Suwon, Republic of Korea), emerges as a technological solution aiming to improve physical strength and functionality in seniors. The robot is designed to assist in exercises by providing both assistive and resistive modes, tailored to the user’s needs.

The study, led by Professor Wan-hee Lee from Sahmyook University College of Health Science, Korea, in collaboration with Noble County and Samsung Electronics, was published in BMC Geriatrics on November 08, 2023. It involved a four-week exercise program for older adults using EX1. A total of 21 participants aged 65 and above engaged in a supervised program, which included walking and strength and balance exercises, with sessions lasting 50 minutes each, three times a week.

The effectiveness of the EX1 was measured through various tests and parameters. After the exercise regimen, notable improvements were observed in several aspects of physical function. Stride length increased by 12.42%, and propulsion increased by 21.29%, indicating enhanced walking ability. There was a 6.63% decrease in the completion time of the timed up and go test (TUG), suggesting improved dynamic balance and movement range. Additionally, a 1.71% reduction in waist-hip ratio was observed after the exercise period.

Interestingly, while an increase in walking speed was not statistically significant, improvements were noted, particularly during mid-walking. This was attributed to the assistive mode of EX1, which effectively improved stride length and forward movement in walking. The study also noted significant improvements in pelvic movement, one-leg standing endurance, and activation of core muscles during walking.

Professor Lee’s findings highlight the potential of EX1 in improving gait function and balance ability in older adults, despite the short duration of the study. He remains optimistic about the future of wearable robots, anticipating their expanded use and further research and commercialization, potentially influencing the global market for such devices. These results provide a promising outlook for the application of robotic technology in enhancing the quality of life and physical capabilities of the elderly population.

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