Objective: To compare the effects of speed-dependent treadmill training on gait and balance performance in patients with sub-acute stroke.
Design: Single-blinded randomized controlled trial.
Subjects: A total of 26 patients with sub-acute stroke were randomly assigned to experimental (n = 13) and control (n = 13) groups.
Methods: Subjects in the experimental group underwent short interval walking trials with stepwise increases in treadmill speed (speed-dependent treadmill training), following the principles of sprint training. Control subjects received gait training on the treadmill at a steady speed. Gait speed, stride length, cadence, and Berg's Balance Score were recorded and analysed before and after the 10 training sessions.
Results: Results of 2-way repeated measures analysis of variance showed significant group×time interactions for gait speed and stride length (p < 0.05). Within each subject group there were improvements in all gait parameters and Berg’s Balance Score after the training programme. In addition, the experimental group showed significantly larger increases in gait speed (mean 0.15 m/s, 95% confidence interval 0.04–0.26) and stride length (mean 0.16 m, 95% confidence interval 0.02–0.30) than the control subjects.
Conclusion: Speed-dependent treadmill training in patients with sub-acute stroke resulted in larger gains in gait speed and stride length compared with steady speed. The positive findings provide evidence for clinical practice of speed-dependent treadmill training in enhancing gait function after stroke.