5 Benefits of Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training (Even If Your Child “Can’t Walk”)

Child on treadmill

Child on treadmill

Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training (BWSTT) is a long fancy name for walking on a treadmill with support. “Body weight supported” is usually done with the help of certain types of equipment (i.e Universal exercise unit, gait trainer, etc.) Here specifically, are the things I have seen it help with firsthand.

Improved Endurance:

Ahhh yes, the positive effects of cardiovascular exercise…usually why everyone hates it BUT the reason it is necessary! Performing any type of walking exercise for a prolonged period of time will improve your cardiovascular health, however when doing it with your body weight supported, it helps eliminate some effects of gravity and allows you to walk easier. Even if you or your child are in a wheelchair …you can still improve your endurance with this..in fact, it’s probably more important to exercise like this to combat the effects of prolonged sitting! Like anything, you slowly work your way up and can start small. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Improved Balance and Coordination:

Walking requires a TON of this; Balance to keep yourself upright and centered, coordination to take steps, and both to work together to prevent falls. Walking with some of your body weight supported, allows you to attain a better position in stance and keep your balance. The treadmill, if even on the lowest speed, forces you to take steps consistently to work on that coordination and generally keep your steps within your base of support. Of course help of a PT to improve your timing of your steps and positioning helps too! Your body can sense where it is supposed to be if its not used to being that way, and therefore while you train that way, there’s carryover in your posture, balance, and in your walking overground.

Improved Strength:

You should have figured this would be on the list… of course this will help your strength! Even though it is taking weight off of your legs to allow you to perform the walking, the repetition of your muscles activating (hips, knees, ankles, back muscles, core, neck for head position) strengthens them!

Motor Planning:

Walking on the treadmill allows improved coordination and control, so with body weight support and the repetition of steps, it allows your body to work on motor planning to take coordinated steps. Your body must plan each action its about to take. Its harder for some individuals than others and harder for certain tasks than others, however walking on a treadmill even if you are not an independent walker, allows you to work on these skills and improve upon them!

Improved Confidence:

You might be thinking, how would walking on a treadmill improve my confidence? Well, if you are not an independent walker, if you have trouble balancing, if you have trouble coordinating steps, then walking with your body weight supported in a safe environment, allows you to build on your confidence! I have seen it with many of our clients here how much just feeling some independence with the support of the equipment to allow them to work on those skills SAFELY can change their ability to transfer the confidence to many other functional tasks!

Check out this quick video to see how BWSTT can improve walking abilities!

P.S- All of those who are included in this short little clip are all “wheel-chair bound” on a daily basis .. Check out what this training can do!

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Christine Astarita