Should Stroke Survivors Walk Quickly?

Picture of healthy heart

A recent British study showed that if stroke survivors walk quickly, they’ll probably return to work. According to the study, 3 feet per second may be the threshold that predicts whether survivors can meet the challenges at work.

One of every four people who has a stroke is younger than 65 years old. As many as 44% may be unable to return to work, usually because it’s just too hard to walk. Stroke affects motor control and motor function. To return to work, you must be able to walk to your car, bus, office and meeting rooms. If you can’t walk or you get tired easily, you won’t be able to do your job properly.

The study compared mobility in 46 stroke survivors from Wales, aged 18 to 65, with 15 people who had not had a stroke. The investigators tested how far and how fast participants could walk in three minutes. Researchers found that stroke survivors who couldn’t walk more than 3-feet per second were unlikely to be able to return to work.

Among the 23% of study participants who went back to work, nine out of 10 walked faster than 3-feet per second. Those who went back to work walked almost 6-feet per second. Those who didn’t return to work walked only about 2.5-feet per second. Not only did stroke survivors have a hard time walking, they also tired more easily.

Walking Speed as a Guide

Walking speed is something that can be measured easily. By working on walking speed and the quality of walking, and then measuring walking speed, clinicians can see if their patients are ready to return to work.

How to Improve Walking Speed

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Physical therapy is often prescribed for stroke survivors to improve physical impairments. Most current stroke rehabilitation has little to no focus on aerobic fitness. But a recent study showed that aerobic exercise significantly improves stroke survivors’ endurance and walking ability. In the study, patients who did two or three aerobics workouts a week for about three months showed significant improvement. And it didn’t matter how much time had passed since their stroke. The aerobic exercise they did was a mixture of walking, stationary cycling and mixed aerobic exercise.

So should stroke survivors walk quickly?  The answer seems to be “Yes.”