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J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2010 Feb 11;7:6. doi: 10.1186/1743-0003-7-6.

Overground walking speed changes when subjected to body weight support conditions for nonimpaired and post stroke individuals.

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Department Of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.



Previous research has shown that body weight support (BWS) has the potential to improve gait speed for individuals post-stroke. However, body weight support also reduces the optimal walking speed at which energy use is minimized over the gait cycle indicating that BWS should reduce walking speed capability.


Nonimpaired subjects and subjects post-stroke walked at a self-selected speed over a 15 m walkway. Body weight support (BWS) was provided to subjects at 0%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40% of the subject's weight while they walked overground using a robotic body weight support system. Gait speed, cadence, and average step length were calculated for each subject using recorded data on their time to walk 10 m and the number of steps taken.


When subjected to greater levels of BWS, self-selected walking speed decreased for the nonimpaired subjects. However, subjects post-stroke showed an average increase of 17% in self-selected walking speed when subjected to some level of BWS compared to the 0% BWS condition. Most subjects showed this increase at the 10% BWS level. Gait speed increases corresponded to an increase in step length, but not cadence.


The BWS training environment results in decreased self-selected walking speed in nonimpaired individuals, however self-selected overground walking speed is facilitated when provided with a small percentage of body weight support for people post-stroke.

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