Intermittent claudication (cramping or pain caused by decreased blood flow to the lower leg muscles) is a common symptom in people with peripheral artery disease. Pain usually increases when the person walks, rather than when at rest.
A new study from The Netherlands concludes that community-based walking programs offer an effective and cost efficient way to relieve leg pain. The supervised walking program included walking on a treadmill to near maximal pain for two to three 30-minute periods every week in the first three months. Sessions were reduced to once every two weeks at six months, and then to once every eight weeks at 12 months, depending on patient progress and preference. Participants were encouraged to walk daily, to quit smoking, to lose weight (if necessary), and adapt a healthier lifestyle.
At one year, the walking distance increased significantly from a median of about 400 yards at baseline to about 1,100 yards. Most of the increase in walking distance occurred in the first six months.