BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: A phase II, single-blinded, randomized clinical trial was conducted to determine the effects of combined task-specific and lower-extremity (LE) strength training to improve walking ability after stroke. SUBJECTS: The participants were 80 adults who were ambulatory 4 months to 5 years after a unilateral stroke. METHOD: The exercise interventions consisted of body-weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT), limb-loaded resistive leg cycling (CYCLE), LE muscle-specific progressive-resistive exercise (LE-EX), and upper-extremity ergometry (UE-EX). After baseline assessments, participants were randomly assigned to a combined exercise program that included an exercise pair. The exercise pairs were: BWSTT/UE-EX, CYCLE/UE-EX, BWSTT/CYCLE, and BWSTT/LE-EX. Exercise sessions were 4 times per week for 6 weeks (total of 24 sessions), with exercise type completed on alternate days. OUTCOMES: were self-selected walking speed, fast walking speed, and 6-minute walk distance measured before and after intervention and at a 6-month follow-up. RESULTS: The BWSTT/UE-EX group had significantly greater walking speed increases compared with the CYCLE/UE-EX group; both groups improved in distance walked. All BWSTT groups increased walking speed and distance whether BWSTT was combined with LE strength training or not. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: After chronic stroke, task-specific training during treadmill walking with body-weight support is more effective in improving walking speed and maintaining these gains at 6 months than resisted leg cycling alone. Consistent with the overtraining literature, LE strength training alternated daily with BWSTT walking did not provide an added benefit to walking outcomes.
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