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Vol. 23. Issue 1.
Pages 56-61 (01 January 2019)
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Vol. 23. Issue 1.
Pages 56-61 (01 January 2019)
Original Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.06.001
Steps, duration and intensity of usual walking practice during subacute rehabilitation after stroke: an observational study
Suzanne S. Kuysa,
Corresponding author

Corresponding author at: School of Physiotherapy, Australian Catholic University, 1100 Nudgee Road, Banyo, Queensland 4014, Australia.
, Louise Adab, Jennifer Paratzc, Sandra G. Brauerd
a School of Physiotherapy, Australian Catholic University, Banyo, Australia
b Discipline of Physiotherapy, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
c Principal Research Fellow, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia
d Division of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

  • Stroke survivors spend approximately 20% of physical therapy time actively walking.

  • Those able to walk without assistance take more steps for longer at a higher intensity.

  • Increased walking practice intensity is needed to drive motor learning.

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Tables (2)
Table 1. Participant characteristics.
Table 2. Mean (SD) steps, duration, intensity and distance walked during a physical therapy session for all, unassisted and assisted walkers and mean difference (95% CI) between groups.
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Duration of therapy time is an inadequate indicator of stroke rehabilitation. Steps, duration, and intensity of active therapy time may provide a better indicator of practice.


This study quantified usual walking practice in terms of steps, duration and intensity of active therapy time, and distance walked during physical therapy sessions in people with sub-acute stroke undertaking inpatient rehabilitation and to examine whether usual walking practice differed depending on walking ability.


A prospective observational study was conducted across two metropolitan rehabilitation units in Australia. Twenty-four stroke survivors were observed over three physical therapy sessions. Walking ability was categorized as unassisted or assisted based on Item 5 of the Motor Assessment Scale. Walking practice was categorized as basic or advanced. Steps, duration, intensity and distance walked were measured during physical therapy sessions.


Overall, participants took 560 steps (SD 309) over 13min (SD 6) at an intensity of steps 44 steps/min (SD 17) and walked 222m (SD 143) in physical therapy. Unassisted walkers (n=6, 25%) undertook more (or trended towards more) practice of advanced walking than assisted walkers in terms of steps (MD 254 steps, 95% CI 48–462), duration (MD 5min, 95% CI 0–10), intensity (MD 18steps/min, 95% CI −8 to 44) and distance (MD 112m, 95% CI −12 to 236).


Stroke survivors undergoing inpatient rehabilitation spent approximately 20% of physical therapy actively engaged in walking practice. Those able to walk without assistance took more steps for longer, at a higher intensity.

Trial registration

ACTRN12613000764730 (

Physical therapy


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