High-intensity walking rehabilitation leads to better mobility for stroke survivors than standard low-impact training, according to new research published in Stroke.

Intense, varied step training, including tasks such as walking up stairs and on uneven surfaces and inclines, resulted in study subjects walking faster and farther than individuals who performed less onerous tasks. In addition, these participants improved walking balance and balance confidence.

The results show not only that stroke survivors can be safely challenged beyond standard rehab protocol, but that the nervous system must also be challenged in order to recover more skills after a stroke occurs, said study author T. George Hornby, Ph.D., of Indiana University School of Medicine, in a statement.

“[W]hen stroke patients are pushed harder, they see greater changes in less time, which translates into more efficient rehabilitation services and improved mobility,” he said.

Participants ranged in age from 18-to-85 years, had weakness on one side of the body, and  had survived a stroke at least six months prior to the study.