Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

High-intensity gait training: a step in the right direction

October 10, 2023

While working at aerospace company Blue Origin, Greg Loving experienced a brain bleed. Following life-saving surgery, Greg’s speech and motor skills were affected. Seeking specialized rehabilitation, he chose Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, which was 1,600 miles away from his home state of Washington. He started Madonna’s comprehensive outpatient program unable to walk and within eight weeks, traded his wheelchair for a walker.

His Madonna care team tapped into Greg’s love of technology and added a twist to his physical therapy. They used high-intensity gait training, a form of interval training known as HIIT, to refine his gait. The goal was to boost Greg’s heart rate into a certain zone for a set period of time.

“A specific focus on walking practice, no matter how it looks, at as high of volume as is possible (as many steps as possible), while monitoring heart rate and/or RPE to ensure we are training in the ideal ‘zone’, can provide much greater improvements in a patient’s ability to restore walking,” Ryan Knight, PT, DPT, a Madonna physical therapist, said.

Greg wore a heart monitor and tracked his progress with an app on his iPhone. A recreational athlete, he enjoyed the challenge presented by high intensity gait training.

“It’s like fertilizer to your brain,” he said.

Knight noted that Greg’s customized treatment plan was backed by recent research on HIGT, and the results with other Madonna patients have been tremendously positive so far.

“Personally, I am seeing better outcomes,” Knight said. “I’m pushing patients sooner and more aggressively to try things that prior to the HIGT intervention, I may have waited several days or more to attempt. This is in line with current research, which overwhelmingly demonstrates that the HIGT intervention can achieve improved outcomes for restoring walking with our patient populations when compared to outcomes achieved with our more ‘traditional’ suite of interventions.”

According to Knight, Madonna has invested in additional HIGT research, education and training as well as specialized technology to support the well-being of our patients.

“Madonna is uniquely equipped to take advantage of recent research recommendations to ensure our patients are receiving the highest quality of care and service,” Knight said.

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