Inactivity is a body killer. Not just outwardly, but inwardly as well. In the case of Peripheral Arterial Disease, the lack of exercise or any form of physical activity can result in the worsening of the disease — making it even more disruptive to the daily living of those afflicted with it.
That is why, it is often recommended that those with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), include an exercise routine into their daily lifestyle. So, one might ask, what are the best exercises for those with PAD?
Let’s break it down a bit at a time.
Why Exercise is Important?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty details, let’s discuss what you should hope to achieve with the addition of regular exercise to your routine. PAD is a circulatory condition that occurs when plaque builds up along the walls of your arteries — which narrows the available space for blood to pass through.
This can turn into an intermittent sharp or numbing pain along the legs and feet. Which, ironically enough, occurs post-exercise. It is because of this reasoning that people might consider it a bad idea to exercise when they have PAD.
Why do it if all you’re going to do is get hurt after all? However, it doesn’t quite work that way. Certain studies have found that exercise can be the perfect rehabilitation technique for your narrowed and blocked up arteries — thus, improving the overall blood circulation in your body.
The easiest and arguably most recommended form of exercise for PAD is walking. This ideal is based on multiple randomized clinical trials that have shown that adding walking to your daily routine is incredibly beneficial at slowing down the progression of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque against the arterial walls.)
One such study was conducted in 2012, by a Dr. Mohler. In his journal, he found that after performing six months of supervised walking on a treadmill, patients with PAD were able to walk farther while experiencing less pain than even those patients who opted for surgical procedures.
This is not to say that other types of exercises will not be effective. However, as Dr. Mohler stated himself, at the moment, walking is the most studied form of rehabilitation for PAD. As such, it is undoubtedly the most trusted of all available options.
Of course, in some cases, the PAD might be so severe that even walking might be too much for a patient. For that, Arm Exercises are the next recommended form of exercise.
It might not sound very effective — after all, how can you get rid of leg pain by working out your arms? However, there was a study that suggested otherwise. In fact, according to WebMD, aerobic arm exercises might even be a better option than the more traditional supervised treadmill walking — at least, for patients who have poor lower extremity mobility.
Conclusion — What are the Best Exercises for Peripheral Artery Disease?
Although the two methods of exercising that we introduced are the ones most recommended, that doesn’t mean that other forms of exercises are ineffective. In the end, it is always best to go with whatever form of rehabilitation your handling physician recommends for you. After all, not everyone will have the same capabilities and needs.
You might need to jog rather than walk, or you might not even be able to walk at all — in which case arm exercises are your solution, etc. The important takeaway here is that exercise, of any kind, is important when it comes to your overall recovery.
- Hamburg, Naomi M, and Gary J Balady. “Exercise Rehabilitation in Peripheral Artery Disease: Functional Impact and Mechanisms of Benefits.” Circulation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 4 Jan. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3061490/.
- Murphy, Timothy P, et al. “Supervised Exercise versus Primary Stenting for Claudication Resulting from Aortoiliac Peripheral Artery Disease: Six-Month Outcomes from the Claudication: Exercise versus Endoluminal Revascularization (CLEVER) Study.” Circulation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3 Jan. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22090168.
- Laino, Charlene. “Arm Exercise Relieves Leg Pain.” WebMD, WebMD, 14 Nov. 2006, www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20061214/leg-pain-relieved-by-arm-exercise#1.