Content Map Terms

Peripheral Arterial Disease and Exercise

British Columbia Specific Information

Being physically active can benefit your physical and mental health in many ways. For example, it can strengthen your muscles and bones, lower your risk of chronic health conditions, and improve your mood and sleep. Physical activity can be safe for almost everyone. If you have concerns about your health or becoming more active, speak with your health care provider or a qualified exercise professional.

For information on the role of physical activity on chronic health conditions and taking steps to change your physical activity level, visit the chronic conditions and helping you make it happen sections of our website. If you would like guidance on physical activity or exercise, call our qualified exercise professionals by dialing 8-1-1 and asking to speak with Physical Activity Services between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Pacific Time Monday to Friday. You can also leave a message outside of these hours and email a qualified exercise professional.

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.

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: 4/28/2022

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC