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Peripheral Arterial Disease and Exercise

British Columbia Specific Information

Physical activity has so many benefits to your health. It can help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of bone fractures if you have osteoporosis, and can reduce the risk of many other illnesses like cancer and heart disease. For most people, participating in physical activity is safe. However, some people should check with their health care provider or a qualified exercise professional before they start becoming more physically active.

For information on the benefits of physical activity, setting goals and overcoming barriers, as well as safety tips and precautions, visit the Physical Activity section of our website.

If you have questions about physical activity or exercise, call 8-1-1 to speak to a qualified exercise professional, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Pacific Time, or you can Email Physical Activity Services. You can also leave a message after hours.

Topic Overview

Exercise is heart-healthy

Being active is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. It can also help you keep peripheral arterial disease (PAD) from getting worse. Regular exercise can help you manage high blood pressure and cholesterol, which can help control PAD and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you have any symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or light-headedness during exercise, report these symptoms to your doctor before continuing your exercise program.

Exercise helps relieve intermittent claudication

Specialized exercise programs may help relieve leg pain that occurs with exercise (called intermittent claudication) in some people who have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). If you have difficulty walking because of your symptoms, these programs may also help you walk more easily.footnote 1

Your doctor may recommend a supervised exercise program. You will work with a qualified exercise professional or other health professional at an exercise facility such as a rehab centre. In an exercise session, you will walk until the pain starts, then rest until it goes away before continuing. Your health professional may ask you to try to walk just a little farther each day before resting. Don't try to walk through the pain. The goal is to increase the amount of time you can exercise before the pain starts.

You may start a similar walking program at home (with your doctor's approval). This type of program is not supervised. You get instructions and guidance from a health professional. This program may be called a structured home-based exercise program.

Exercise helps prevent PAD

If you do not have PAD, regular exercise can reduce your risk of getting it. Exercise can help you:

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Regulate blood sugar (important for people who have diabetes).
  • Lose weight.

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References

Citations

  1. Gerhard-Herman MD, et al. (2016). 2016 AHA/ACC guideline on the management of patients with lower extremity peripheral artery disease. Circulation , published online November 13, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000471. Accessed November 25, 2016.

Other Works Consulted

  • Conte M , et al. (2015). Society for Vascular Surgery practice guidelines for atherosclerotic occlusive disease of the lower extremities: Management of asymptomatic disease and claudication. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 61(3S): 2S–41S. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvs.2014.12.009. Accessed November 25, 2016.
  • Gerhard-Herman MD, et al. (2016). 2016 AHA/ACC guideline on the management of patients with lower extremity peripheral artery disease. Circulation, published online November 13, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000471 . Accessed November 25, 2016.
  • Watson L, et al. (2008). Exercise for intermittent claudication. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).

Credits

Adaptation Date: 9/23/2021

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC