van de Port IGL, Wood-Dauphinee S, Lindeman E, Kwakkel G: Effects of exercise training programs on walking competency after stroke: a systematic review. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2007;86:935–951.
To determine the effectiveness of training programs that focus on lower-limb strengthening, cardiorespiratory fitness, or gait-oriented tasks in improving gait, gait-related activities, and health-related quality of life after stroke. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were searched for in the databases of Pubmed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DARE, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), EMBASE, Database of the Dutch Institute of Allied Health Care, and CINAHL. Databases were systematically searched by two independent researchers. The following inclusion criteria were applied: (1) participants were people with stroke, older than 18 yrs; (2) one of the outcomes focused on gait-related activities; (3) the studies evaluated the effectiveness of therapy programs focusing on lower-limb strengthening, cardiorespiratory fitness, or gait-oriented training; and (4) the study was published in English, German, or Dutch. Studies were collected up to November 2005, and their methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale. Studies were pooled and summarized effect sizes were calculated. Best-evidence synthesis was applied if pooling was impossible. Twenty-one RCTs were included, of which five focused on lower-limb strengthening, two on cardiorespiratory fitness training (e.g., cycling exercises), and 14 on gait-oriented training. Median PEDro score was 7. Meta-analysis showed a significant medium effect of gait-oriented training interventions on both gait speed and walking distance, whereas a small, nonsignificant effect size was found on balance. Cardiorespiratory fitness programs had a nonsignificant medium effect size on gait speed. No significant effects were found for programs targeting lower-limb strengthening. In the best-evidence synthesis, strong evidence was found to support cardiorespiratory training for stair-climbing performance. Although functional mobility was positively affected, no evidence was found that activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, or health-related quality of life were significantly affected by gait-oriented training. This review shows that gait-oriented training is effective in improving walking competency after stroke.