Exercise on a treadmill or walking outdoors? A randomized controlled trial comparing effectiveness of two walking exercise programmes late after stroke

Birgitta Langhammer, Johan K Stanghelle
Clinical Rehabilitation 2010, 24 (1): 46-54

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate spatial and temporal gait characteristics and endurance late after stroke in people who had received two different walking exercises. A secondary aim was to compare the outcomes in relation to length of time exercising and number of exercise occasions between the two.

DESIGN: A randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: A private rehabilitation centre.

SUBJECTS: Thirty-nine people with stroke entered the study, and five dropped out.

INTERVENTIONS: Treadmill training versus walking outdoors.

MAIN MEASURES: Six-Minute Walk Test, a 10-metre walk test and pulse rates at rest and in activity.

RESULTS: There were significant differences in favour of the treadmill group in Six-Minute Walk Test distance (P = 0.04), Six-Minute Walk Test speed (P = 0.03), 10-m walking speed (P = 0.03), bilateral stride length (right leg; P = 0.009, left leg; P = 0.003) and step width (P = 0.01), indicating more symmetrical use of the legs in the treadmill group (1.02-1.10 m versus 0.97-0.92 m). There were no significant differences between groups in cadence (P = 0.78). All participants complied 100% with their respective programmes. Exercise frequency did not differ between the groups but significantly less time was spent exercising on the treadmill compared with walking exercise outdoors (107 versus 316 minutes, P = 0.002). There were no differences in use of assistive aids between the groups on arrival at the clinic or at departure.

CONCLUSION: The results indicate that treadmill walking improves spatial and temporal gait characteristics more effectively than walking outdoors.

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