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Why More Walking Isn’t Necessarily Better

More is better, right? When we think of improving after a stroke the science tells us more repetition is one key to improvement. But, this can be a bit misleading. Because, if we don’t make a point to look at what we are repeating and practicing, we may not realize that we are practicing something that is actually not helpful.

For example, last week I shared some of the things that I see as causing arm tightness for some Stroke Survivors when they are walking. Some Stroke Survivors work on walking more and more as a tool to improve. And, because everyone’s stroke is different, this can be helpful for some people. But, if a person has an arm that gets tiger when they walk, this is probably not moving them toward their desired result. If a person who is experiencing these issues makes a point to walk for 30 minutes every day, then they are spending 30 minutes practicing walking in a way that tightens the arm. And, I would imagine that ultimately that person’s goal is to walk in with an arm that rests in a more natural position and with more natural function. But, we learn what we practice. So, if we are committing ourselves to practicing walking in a way that tightens our arm, we aren’t going to begin to walk with a loose arm.

Another thing folks practice is increasing speed of walking. Many measures of improvement in the therapy world relate to “how fast” you can do something. These measures strictly look at time and have no aspect in the testing for “how close to typical” you are doing them. A measure of how fast you can cover a certain distance is a standard measure used by many therapists. This one dimensional measure does not indicate how your arm gets tighter and tighter when you increase your speed. And this matters, because if the arm gets tighter by the time you get from point A to point B, you will have increased difficulty using the arm in function at point B. So, speed of walking is one measurement tool that can be used. And, as walking gets to be more and more like it was before your stroke, your speed will naturally increase- without specifically focusing on increasing your speed.

How can you work on reducing your arm tightness and walking more naturally? If you can isolate one or two things that you are doing that are making your arm tight and you learn how to change that, you can practice those changes. Then those changes will begin to show in your walking. Then you can practice walking using those new changes.

When I work with clients and they are having arm tightness when walking, I encourage them to stop doing any walking for “exercise” or “rehab”. We look for the things that need to change to promote more normal movement and the exercise that they do is related to that. If they want to get exercise, I encourage them to use exercise equipment or perform our seated fitness classes.

If you have any questions about your specific exercise program and arm tightness, send along and email and I will answer your question.

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