For some people, the idea of exercise can feel overwhelming—especially if you’re still experiencing pain and other symptoms related to your peripheral artery disease (PAD). While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise in people with PAD can actually help reduce symptoms like intermittent claudication, which is the pain you feel in your legs because blockages in your arteries prevent your muscles from getting enough oxygen during physical activity.
PAD and cardiac rehabilitation
One option for getting the recommended amount of physical activity is through a cardiac rehabilitation program, also known as cardiac rehab. Research shows that cardiac rehab can improve walking ability in people with PAD, and, when combined with other treatments and lifestyle changes, can slow and even stop the progression of PAD.
This supervised exercise program is usually conducted in a hospital or dedicated rehabilitation center, but can also be done at home or as part of a community-based program. Before you start, your doctor will conduct a thorough medical review and tailor the program to your individual health and ability. In general, you can expect simple treadmill walking regimens and leg exercises that will gradually increase in duration and intensity over a period of time. Most programs last about three months or more and also include education about risk factors and lifestyle changes, and even counseling to help manage stress.
What’s more, cardiac rehab is often covered by health insurance or Medicare, so talk to your doctor about any programs that may be offered in your area.