Exercise – An Effective Method for Treating PAD
Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. For those affected by Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms and slow overall progression of the disease.
PAD occurs when blood flow to the lower extremities is restricted due to plaque build up in the blood vessels leading to the legs and feet. This lack of blood flow to the leg muscles can cause painful cramping or make walking difficult. While it may seem like exercise would exacerbate the symptoms of PAD, the opposite is actually true. According to the National Institute of Health, exercise helps to ease pain caused by PAD – as the body works harder, circulation improves.
While PAD cannot be reversed, numerous studies conducted over the past 50 years have shown that physical exercise can slow or stop the progression of PAD. The recommended exercise regimen for individuals with PAD is a combination of walking and rest. This low-impact activity can improve mobility and reduce pain associated with PAD. However, most individuals will have to work through some initial discomfort, but over time and with consistency, pain can lessen and symptoms can improve. Alternating walking with periodic rest breaks can also decrease the risk of experiencing other cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke, that can affect individuals with PAD.
It’s important to note that a physician should always be consulted prior to beginning exercise therapy, especially because many doctors recommend supervised exercise training for patients with PAD. The goal for individuals living with PAD is to be able to walk for one hour without pain, about 3-5 times per week. However long it takes for an individual to achieve this milestone, the goal is simply to begin.