Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a treadmill and overground walking program in reducing the disability and handicap associated with poor walking performance after stroke.
Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial with a 3-month follow-up.
Setting: General community.
Participants: A volunteer sample of 29 ambulatory individuals (less 2 dropouts) who were living in the community after having suffered a stroke more than 6 months previously.
Interventions: The experimental group participated in a 30-minute treadmill and overground walking program, 3 times a week for 4 weeks. The control group received a placebo consisting of a low-intensity, home exercise program and regular telephone contact.
Main outcome measures: Walking speed (over 10 m), walking capacity (distance over 6 min), and handicap (stroke-adapted 30-item version of the Sickness Impact Profile) measured by a blinded assessor.
Results: The 4-week treadmill and overground walking program significantly increased walking speed (P=.02) and walking capacity (P<.001), but did not decrease handicap (P=.85) compared with the placebo program. These gains were largely maintained 3 months after the cessation of training (P</=.05).
Conclusions: The treadmill and overground walking program was effective in improving walking in persons residing in the community after stroke. This suggests that the routine provision of accessible, long-term, community-based walking programs would be beneficial in reducing disability after stroke.