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Body-weight-supported-treadmill-training | Blog | Physio.co.uk | Leading physiotherapy provider in Liverpool and Manchester.

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 The ability to walk following a neurological impairment is normally a primary goal for most patients.

Walking is an essential part of our health and wellbeing, helping us to maintain healthy muscles and bones and is a necessary component of daily activities. It also improves our cardiovascular system, promotes healthy mood and maintains our ability to balance and coordinate.

Research states that 85% of people who have had a stroke will have walking difficulties at some point, with over a third of patients unable to walk 3 months after their injury.

Reduced mobility can increase the risk of secondary diseases such as heart disease, chest infections and osteoporosis, while having a direct impact upon quality of life.

However, returning to walking following a neurological injury can often be slow and inefficient. People often have a fear of falling and an inability to walk independently or without the assistance of a walking aid.

Physiotherapy is fundamental to regaining or improving somebody’s ability to walk following a neurological impairment. This is achieved through numerous methods, such as strength training, balance exercises and gait re-education.

Where able, Treadmill Training is often used to improve a person’s aerobic capacity, speed and rhythmical walking pattern to assist with the process of returning to normal walking.

However, many people with neurological impairments remain unable to use treadmills due to decreased standing balance, limb weakness or reduced postural control.

To address this issue, Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training was introduced during the 1990’s to form part of rehabilitation programme. Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training allows people with neurological issues to access the benefits of using a treadmill within a safe environment.

Research into the use of Body Weight supported Treadmill training following a stroke showed improvements in both endurance and walking speed. (Cochrane 2017)

What it is:

  • A treadmill with an attached hoist that allows the patient to be suspended directly above the treadmill in order to use the equipment
  • The amount of support offered can be adjusted depending on the patient’s level of ability
  • This decreases the body’s need to weight bear and supports postural control
  • The amount of support is reduced as balance, strength and coordination improve
  • Once in the hoist, people can then work on walking pattern, speed and endurance
  • The body weight supported treadmill can be used in conjunction with electrical stimulation, splints and therapeutic handling in order to optimize a person’s walking.

Who can use body weight supported treadmills?

  • You need to have an element of postural control (i.e. ability to maintain standing position)
  • An ability to sit to stand (this can be with assistance)
  • Standing balance (this can be with assistance)
  • Some lower limb activity
  • Medically stable to exercise


  • Improves speed and endurance
  • Increases confidence walking and reduces the fear of falling
  • Improves postural control
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness

The main research for Body weight supported treadmill training is in Stroke and Spinal injuries. However, body weight supported treadmill programmes can be appropriate for all neurological conditions including:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Traumatic Brain injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Guillain Barre
  • Spinal injuries
  • Strokes
  • Parkinson’s

At Physio.co.uk we work closely with our clients to provide individualised exercise programmes to work on their ability to walk. Where appropriate we offer body weightless treadmill training programmes to improve the quality of walking. To book your assessment today visit physio.co.uk or call 0330 088 7800.


Mehrholz, J., Pohl, M. and  Elsner, B. (2014) Treadmill training and body weight support for walking after stroke, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD002840.

Heart and Stroke Foundation: Canadian partnership for stroke recovery: https://www.strokengine.ca/intervention/body-weight-supported-treadmill-training/

NICE Guidelines: Stroke rehabilitation in adults (2013)

Mehrholz, J., Thomas, S., Elsner, B. (2017) Treadmill training and body weight support for walking after stroke, Cochrane systematic review.