What Is Gait Training?
The word ‘gait’ simply refers to your manner of walking (we know, why don’t they just call it walking?) and ‘gait training’ refers to a specific type of physical therapy that helps you improve your ability to stand or walk. By focusing on balance, posture, and endurance, this type of physical therapy can help prepare your legs for repetitive, active motion again.
The Purpose of Gait Training
The short-term goal of gait training is to help prevent falling, because strong legs can help you stabilize if you lose balance. The long-term goal is to get you back onto your feet walking independently and confidently once again. These goals are accomplished using two main types of training: strength training and task-specific training.
To prepare you for walking, gait training can include different strength training exercises that focus on specific muscles. Some examples of strength training include shifting body weight between each leg, standing on one leg, calf raises, and other repetitive exercises that strengthen specific muscle groups. And remember, repetition is key! When you repeat a movement over and over it helps create new pathways in the brain, and you’ll progress faster. Once you’re comfortable with strength training, you can move on to task-specific training.
By task-specific, we’re referring to exercises that actually involve walking. Task-specific gait training exercises can included treadmill training, with or without body-weight support, and intensive mobility training. Body-weight-supported treadmill training can be effective… but also expensive, requiring a pricey at-home unit or a facility with specialized equipment. Intensive mobility gait training is different from strength training because it involves an aerobic component where the patient continuously performs a movement at moderate intensity. Intensive mobility training exercises can involve riding a stationary bicycle or repeatedly getting up and sitting down in a chair. As long as sweat and repetition are involved, it’s intensive mobility training. And as you progress, the intensity and challenge of the exercises get progressively more intense – let the burn remind you of how strong you’re getting!
Getting to the Finish Line
While trying to regain your ability to stand and walk, it’s common to feel frustrated or angry. To counter this, you need a solid support system and constant motivation. Remember how strong you are! What you’re doing is a big deal, so don’t sell yourself short. Every inch of progress is bringing you closer to your goal – and that’s something to be proud of!