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Choosing the Best Exercise for Peripheral Arterial Disease

Posted on March 12, 2024

What's the best exercise for peripheral arterial disease? And why would exercise relieve PAD symptoms when it is often the cause of PAD-related pain (called claudication?) Here's what you need to know.

Understanding PAD

Peripheral arterial disease is characterized by a narrowing of your arteries. Immediately, that limits blood flow to the legs and feet. In turn, you may develop painful muscular cramps in the hips, thighs and calves. For most people, the pain is worst when they're active, improving with rest.

Now, some people may think they should avoid exercising since it can trigger these painful cramps. But that's just not the case. In fact, research shows that exercise will actually help improve PAD symptoms in the long run.

Exercise and PAD: What the Research Says

infographic on best exercise for peripheral arterial disease

According to the Intervention Journal, the best exercise for peripheral arterial disease involves supervised treadmill workouts. In fact, authors advocate for: "exercise sessions [that] should progress up to a target goal of accumulating 30 to 45 minutes of treadmill walking per session” and “exercise should be carried out at an intensity that elicits mild claudication pain within 5 minutes, and moderate to moderately severe claudication within 10 minutes followed by rest until claudication pain subsides."

Put simply, research says you should walk until you feel pain. And, if you do, that pain will eventually take longer and longer to develop. So, by walking on the treadmill until it hurts, you could manage longer, pain-free periods of physical activity in your real life.

Now, as you can see from the pictured graphic, European Heart Journal research reveals that you should walk at least three times a week for 12 weeks, with each workout lasting at least 30 minutes to maximize your results. But if that sounds impossible, there's no need to worry. You can still experience the benefits for walking even if you can't yet hit the target we just mentioned.

How Much Walking is Enough?

The World Health Organization suggests that walking for 150 minutes each week is highly beneficial. So, if you're choosing to walk since it's the best exercise for peripheral arterial disease, you could break up your treadmill sessions into manageable chunks, even if you can't walk for 30 minutes straight when you're beginning your program.

Exercises to Avoid with Peripheral Arterial Disease

When you have PAD, it's important to avoid high-impact workouts like heavy weight lifting, running, or jumping, since they put too much pressure on your feet. You should also avoid outdoor workouts in extreme heat, since the rise in temperature can over-strain your body. And always keep your shoes on, making sure to select foot gear with plenty of support and padding.

Of course, even with the best exercise for peripheral arterial disease, working out can't cure PAD. But at our Georgia area vein centers, we can diagnose and treat PAD with the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test, using ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate arm and leg circulation in your body. We may also use Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to craft your ideal treatment plan, choosing the least invasive procedures that will deliver PAD relief. Ready to get active without the PAD pain? Click here to request an appointmentright away!

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