[ARTICLE] Effectiveness of a multimodal exercise rehabilitation program on walking capacity and functionality after a stroke – Full Text


The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a 12-week multimodal exercise rehabilitation program on walking speed, walking ability and activities of daily living (ADLs) among people who had suffered a stroke. Thirty-one stroke survivors who had completed a conventional rehabilitation program voluntarily participated in the study. Twenty-six participants completed the multimodal exercise rehabilitation program (2 days/wk, 1 hr/session). Physical outcome measures were: walking speed (10-m walking test), walking ability (6-min walking test and functional ambulation classification) and ADLs (Barthel Index). The program consisted on: aerobic exercise; task oriented exercises; balance and postural tonic activities; and stretching. Participants also followed a program of progressive ambulation at home. They were evaluated at baseline, postintervention and at the end of a 6-month follow-up period. After the intervention there were significant improvements in all outcomes measures that were maintained 6 months later. Comfortable and fast walking speed increased an average of 0.16 and 0.40 m/sec, respectively. The walking distance in the 6-min walking test increased an average of 59.8 m. At the end of the intervention, participants had achieved independent ambulation both indoors and outdoors. In ADLs, 40% were independent at baseline vs. 64% at the end of the intervention. Our study demonstrates that a multimodal exercise rehabilitation program adapted to stroke survivors has benefits on walking speed, walking ability and independence in ADLs.
Keywords: Exercise, Physical activity, Stroke rehabilitation, Walking speed, Activities of daily living


As life expectancy increases, a larger number of persons may suffer from stroke. Stroke mortality rates have decreased, but the burden of stroke is increasing in terms of stroke survivors per year, correlated deaths and disability-adjusted life-years lost. These deficiencies are further highlighted by a trend towards more strokes in younger people (Feigin et al., 2014). Stroke not only causes permanent neurological deficits, but also a profound degradation of physical condition, which worsens disability and increases cardiovascular risk. Stroke survivors are likely to suffer functional decline due to reduction of aerobic capacity. This may involve further secondary complications such as progressive muscular atrophy, osteoporosis, peripheral circulation worsening and increased cardiovascular risk (Ivey et al., 2006). All these factors cause increased dependency, need of assistance from third parties in activities of daily living (ADLs) and a restriction on participation that can have a profound psychosocial impact (Carod-Artal and Egido, 2009). Gait capacity is one of the main priorities of persons who have suffered a stroke, but is often limited due to the high energy demands of hemiplegic gait and the poor physical condition of these persons (Ivey et al., 2006). Gait speed is a commonly used measure in patients who have suffered a stroke to differentiate the functional capacity to walk indoors or outdoors. Gait speed has been classified as: allowing indoor ambulation (<0.4 m/sec), limited outdoor ambulation (0.4–0.8 m/sec), and outdoor functional ambulation (>0.8 m/sec) (Perry et al., 1995). Gait speed can also help to establish the functional prognosis of the patient. It has been stated that improvements in walking speed correlate with improved function and quality of life (QoL) (Schmid et al., 2007). It is essential to achieve a proper gait speed for outdoors functional ambulation.
Falls are common among stroke survivors and are associated with a worsening of disability and QoL. Balance is a complex process that involves the reception and integration of afferent inputs and the planning and execution of movement. Stroke can impact on different systems involved in postural control. Multifactorial falls risk assessment and management, combined with fitness programs, are effective in reducing risk of falls and fear of falling (Stroke Foundation of New Zealand and New Zealand Guidelines Group, 2010). Falls often occur when getting in and out of a chair (Brunt et al., 2002). The 2013 Cochrane review (Saunders et al., 2013) recommends the repetitive practice of sit-to-stand in order to promote an ergonomic and automatic pattern of this movement. Recent studies demonstrate that exercises that improve trunk stability and balance provide a solid base for body and leg movements that entail an improved gait in people affected by stroke (Sharma and Kaur, 2017). Conventional rehabilitation programs after stroke focus on the subacute period. The aim is to recover basic ADLs, but they do not provide maintenance exercises to provide long-term health gains. Cardiac monitoring demonstrates that conventional physiotherapy exercises do not regularly provide adequate exercise intensity to modify the physical deconditioning, nor sufficient exercise repetition to improve motor learning (Ivey et al., 2006). Therapeutic physical exercise to optimize function, physical condition and cardiovascular health after a stroke is an emerging field within neurorehabilitation (Teasell et al., 2009). The wide range of difficulties experienced by stroke survivors justify the need to explore rehabilitation programs designed to promote an overall improvement and to maintain the gains obtained after rehabilitation programs. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of aerobic exercise (Saunders et al., 2016), but there are few data on the long term effects of multimodal programs that incorporate aerobic exercise, complemented by task-oriented training and balance exercises. Consequently, the aim of this study is to analyse the impact of a multimodal exercise rehabilitation program tailored to stroke survivors on walking speed, walking ability and ADLs. […]

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