Effects of Low-Intensity Exercise on Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease

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Keith Elizabeth Pena, MSc; Christine B. Stopka, PhD, ATC; Sharon Barak, PhD; Harold R. Gertner, Jr., MD, FACS; and Eli Carmeli, PhD, PT

Table of Contents

Physician and Sportsmedicine:

Volume 37 No. 1

Category:

Clinical Features

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DOI: 10.3810/psm.2009.04.1689
Abstract: Background: Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one of the many unhealthy conditions that may get worse with age. Its most common symptom is intermittent claudication (IC). Intermittent claudication is the exercise-induced ischemic pain caused by the reduced blood flow to the lower extremities. Objectives: To investigate the effects of low intensity treadmill walking on the functional capacity of PAD patients with IC. Walking ability (time, rate, and distance), heart rate, and blood pressure responses were recorded before, during, and after each exercise session. Only the initial and final values recorded were used for data analysis. This 6-week program of lowintensity, pain-free endurance training was designed to keep the exercise level low enough to minimize ischemic leg pain. Methods: Thirteen PAD patients volunteered for twice weekly exercise sessions for 6 consecutive weeks. Each session consisted of a 10-minute warm-up consisting of routine, pain-free static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. Each patient exercised for 10 to 20 minutes as tolerated on the treadmill. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation was conducted following walking. Results: As a group the patients with PAD had an average 148% improvement in distance, 34% in rate, and 94% in duration of walking. Five of the 13 patients had over 100% improvement in distance, with the maximum being 525%. One of the 13 patients had a 100% improvement in rate. Four of the 13 patients had over 100% improvement in duration, with the maximum being 500%. Conclusions: This study introduces a new method of low-intensity treadmill walking exercise, which seems to be an effective nonpharmacologic treatment even within a 6-week period for patients with IC due to PAD. It also supports the benefits of walking exercise to increase the mobility of these patients, thus improving functional capacity of life.

Keywords: intermittent claudication , exercise , walking , peripheral artery disease , aging