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Stroke Smart Magazine

March/April 2009

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Step It Up
Marching Toward Recovery

By David Dansereau

Stroke recovery research has shown that repetitive practice at walking helps rewire neural pathways and improve brain function. The stroke survivor can take advantage of adding walking rhythms for brain auditory cuing to help step up their gait training recovery. This can be accomplished by:

  • Listening to a marching beat while you walk or march in place to help re-establish the natural rhythm of gait, retrain your brain and help your legs recover their old walking beat.
  • Finding a constant rhythm that is close to your current walking pace or, better yet, that can be adjusted to match the desired walking pace.

Simple Solutions to Step it up

Here are some aids that can help you keep in step:

  • A metronome: a device that musicians use to keep the beat while practicing their music. You can buy a basic metronome online or at a music supply store for under $15.
  • Download free digital audio editors or metronomes online. Some of these products even enable you to make your own tracks, change tempo and pitch and allow you to overlay your own music with the beat you need. Your customized walking rhythm can then be saved to your iPod or mp3 player.
  • Any device that produces a constant beat can be used for auditory cuing: an inexpensive electronic drum machine or a kids’ music keyboard can be used.

After you’ve done your research and collected your own walking rhythm solutions, be sure to speak with your doctors and therapists. They know your specific needs and abilities and can help you decide if auditory cuing can be safely included with your gait training practice sessions.

Adding Rhythm

Walking cadence can be trained by speeding up or slowing down the length of your steps. shortening your step will speed up cadence and lengthening steps will slow down cadence. This can be done while walking on a treadmill to establish an equal rhythm during foot strike, or while practicing prewalking exercises such as sitting or standing in place and marching to a rhythm.

Free online

David Dansereau, MSPT, is a physical therapist and private practitioner in Providence, R.I. He also is a stroke survivor. Learn more about Dansereau by going to www.my-physical-therapy-coach.com.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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