Seated bilateral leg exercise effects on hemiparetic lower extremity function in chronic stroke
Johannsen L., Wing AM., Pelton T., Kitaka K., Zietz D., Brittle N., Van Vliet P., Riddoch J., Sackley C., McManus R.
Background. Bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing (BATRAC) improves hemiparetic upper extremity (UE) function in stroke. It is unknown whether a similar exercise for the hemiparetic lower extremity (LE) is effective. Objective. The authors sought to test whether the BATRAC strategy would transfer to the legs by improving LE motor function following ten 30-minute sessions of bilateral leg training with rhythmic auditory cueing (BLETRAC). Methods. Twenty-four chronic stroke participants, recruited from the community, were randomized to either the BLETRAC or the BATRAC intervention. Assessments were performed before (week 0) and after (week 6) training as well as 3 months later (week 18). Change in the Fugl-Meyer LE and UE subscales served as primary outcomes. Timed 10-m walk, movement parameters during treadmill walking, and a repetitive aiming task for both feet and hands were the secondary outcomes. Results. Following an intention-to-treat approach, data from 21 subjects were analyzed. After training, improvements in the Fugl-Meyer LE and UE subscales tended to be better for the corresponding intervention group. The BLETRAC group also showed increases in step length during treadmill walking and performance in the repetitive foot and hand aiming tasks. No differences between the intervention groups were found at follow-up. Conclusions. This exploratory trial demonstrates that transfer of the BATRAC approach to the legs is feasible. Transient improvements of limb motor function in chronic stroke participants were induced by targeted exercise (BATRAC for the UE and BLETRAC for the LE). It may be that further periods of training would increase and maintain effects.