The aim of this study was to directly compare the effects of aerobic training (AT) with progressive resistance training (RT) after stroke to determine whether AT-induced fitness gains or RT-induced strength gains translate into improved ambulation across a 12-wk intervention and whether gains are retained 1 yr after cessation of formal training.
This study is a randomized controlled 12-wk intervention trial with a 1-yr follow-up. Forty-three community-dwelling independent walkers with a chronic ischemic hemiparetic stroke were allocated to AT using a cycle ergometer (n = 13), RT using training machines (n = 14), or low-intensity sham training of the arms (n = 16). The main outcome measures were 6-min walk distance and fast 10-m walking speed.
Comparisons between AT, RT, and sham training revealed no clinically relevant effects on walking velocity or walking distance. Muscle strength improved after RT (P < 0.0001) and was preserved at 1-yr follow-up (P < 0.001). Aerobic capacity increased after AT (P < 0.001) but was lost during the follow-up observation period.
Improvement of muscle strength or aerobic capacity using non–task-specific training methods does not result in improved ambulation in patients with chronic stroke. Muscle strength gains were maintained at follow-up, whereas all improvements of aerobic capacity were lost, indicating a long-lasting effect of intensive RT even without maintenance training.