Infants at risk for neuromotor delay (NMD) are associated with premature birth and low birth weight. These infants frequently exhibit tone, posture, and movement abnormalities. Therefore, it is important to identify potential interventions to facilitate early motor development within this population. The purpose of this study was to examine the potential benefits of treadmill (TM) training in infants at risk for NMD. Furthermore, relationships between TM stepping performance and onset of walking have been suggested, and therefore, were also explored. Twenty-eight infants at moderate risk for NMD were randomly assigned to one of two groups: (1) TM training (experimental) (N=15) or (2) control (N=13). Infants in the experimental group were trained for 8 min/day, five days/week from study entry until walking onset. Monthly, 5 min of TM stepping performance were videotaped and analysed for infants in both groups to obtain frequency and quality of TM stepping. Groups were different in terms of TM stepping performance with experimental group displaying better stepping. However, they did not differ in age of walking onset (experimental=15.1 months, control=14.6 months). In both groups, frequency of TM stepping was significantly related to onset of walking. Findings suggest that TM training as implemented impact the quality of TM stepping, but did not significantly improve walking onset. Given the significant relationship between stepping and walking onset, the moderate affection of the population, the relative low intensity and lack of individualisation of the training, we suggest future research should further explore the impact of TM training on gait-related variables and include individualised, more intense, and prolonged training.
Keywords: Child development; Gait; Infant; Low birth weight; Premature birth.
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