Exercise on a bike or ergometer can benefit you in more ways than you might initially realize. As you already know, biking can increase your aerobic fitness, allowing you to walk faster and for longer distances. Because the movements in cycling activate many of the same muscles as walking, and in a similar pattern, you can also improve the quality of your walking. Cycling training may greatly benefit rehabilitation following a stroke. However, muscles in the affected leg may not have enough strength and energy to perform a complete cycling rotation efficiently. To assist with this, researchers have developed a technique known as Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). In FES, the muscle receives electrical stimulation through the skin to support and augment the diminished electrical stimulation of the injured nerve.
Incorporating FES assisted cycling to rehabilitation regiments
A research team from the USA studied the effects of FES-assisted cycling on walking after stroke. They recruited 11 chronic stroke patients who cycled on a tricycle equipped with sensors on the pedals. Muscle stimulation pads were applied to both upper legs. During exercise, the sensors provided feedback to the FES, so muscles were only stimulated when needed. Patients trained for 30 minutes for a total of 24 sessions. The training was quite intense, with equal amounts of time spent in high-intensity and low-intensity circuits.
While the training was quite vigorous, the demanding work translated into impressive results. FES assisted cycling showed improvement in pedaling symmetry which can assist with a more
symmetric gait pattern. The study showed that the training regime improved the amount of oxygen utilized by the body (metabolism), walking performance, balance, and even patient satisfaction with their ability to participate in everyday activities, an important and valuable aspect of a successful rehabilitation process.
Also, the study showed that the increase in resistance and cadence resulted in increased participation of the affected leg.
Strokemark previously reported on a study that showed increased resistance in cycling improved function and involvement of the affected limb. If you are in the chronic phase of your stroke, mounting evidence suggests the inclusion of cycling into your rehabilitation regime may be the boost you need to overcome a recent hurdle. In addition, this study shows you shouldn’t be afraid to increase your workload if possible to achieve the maximal results!
The lead author of the original article was Dr. Katlin Genthe, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.