Home-based exercise can improve clogged leg arteries and long-term walking ability in people with peripheral artery disease, according to a recently published study.
The study compared walking ability in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) and control patients, a year following the completion of a 6 month home-based walking program.
Patients were instructed to walk at least 5 day per week, building up to 50 minutes. If leg pain occurred, they were encouraged to rest and resume walking when the pain subsided.
During the first 6 months, 81 patients with PAD participated in weekly support meetings and skills training, whereas 87 control patients participated in educational meetings.
In months 7-12, patients with PAD received phone calls to encourage continued walking. Control patients received phone contact on unrelated topics such as managing high blood pressure, cancer screening and vaccinations.
At 12 months, results showed that patients in the home-based walking program increased the distance they could walk in 6 minutes by about 87 feet, whereas the distance covered by the controls slightly decreased.
Mary McGrae McDermott, MD, Jeremiah Stamler professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and lead author of the study, said walking is the most effective non-invasive treatment for PAD. Although supervised exercise has been shown to improve walking and lessen PAD symptoms, a home-based program can provide long-term benefits as well.
“The problem with supervised exercise is that it takes many visits to a cardiac rehabilitation center or other exercise facility, and it is not covered by Medicare. Our results should encourage physicians to recommend walking even if their patients do not have access to a supervised-exercise program.”
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Disclosures: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.