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Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2011 Feb;25(2):140-8. doi: 10.1177/1545968310384270. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Feasibility and effectiveness of circuit training in acute stroke rehabilitation.

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.



Task-specificity, repetition and progression are key variables in the acquisition of motor skill however they have not been consistently implemented in post-stroke rehabilitation.


To evaluate the effectiveness of a stroke rehabilitation plan of care that incorporated task-specific practice, repetition and progression to facilitate functional gain compared to standard physical therapy for individuals admitted to an inpatient stroke unit.


Individuals participated in either a circuit training (CTPT) model (n = 72) or a standard (SPT) model (n = 108) of physical therapy, 5 days/week. Each 60 minute circuit training session, delivered according to severity level, consisted of four functional mobility tasks. Daily exercise logs documented both task repetition and progression.


The CTPT model was successfully implemented in an acute rehabilitation setting. The CTPT group showed a significantly greater improved change in gait speed from hospital admission to discharge than the SPT group (0.21 ± 0.25 m/sec vs. 0.13 ± 0.22 m/sec; p = 0.03). The difference between groups occurred primarily among those who were ambulatory upon admission. There were no significant differences between the two cohorts at 90 days post-stroke as measured by the FONE-FIM, SF-36 and living location.


Therapy focused on systematically progressed functional tasks can be successfully implemented in an inpatient rehabilitation stroke program. This circuit-training model resulted in greater gains in gait velocity over the course of inpatient rehabilitation compared to the standard model of care. Community-based services following hospital discharge to maintain these gains should be included in the continuum of post-stroke care.

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