Exercise and Vascular Disease
Exercise can have amazing effects on one’s overall health and wellbeing. The benefits of a structured fitness regimen include:
- Weight Loss
- Improved Mood
- Increased good cholesterol and decreased bad cholesterol
- Decreased blood pressure
- Many More….
Exercise is also one of the best treatments for patients with a type of vascular disease called “claudication”. Claudication is a result of blockages in the arteries of the legs and pelvis. When we walk or run, our legs require more blood flow, but the blockages prevent sufficient blood from reaching our legs. This results in pain, which resolves after resting. Exercise is the time-honored best treatment for claudication, and the old adage of, “No pain, no gain” holds true. According to the Claudication: Exercise Vs. Endoluminal Revascularization (CLEVER) study, a supervised exercise regimen was superior to medicines and surgery to improve overall walking distance in select claudication patients. Patients are encouraged to walk til they elicit pain, rest until pain resolves, and walk again. This process should be repeated for a minimum of 30-45 minutes a session at least three times a week. The good news is that most patients see marked improvement within a month, and they will continue to improve more than 6 months to a year after initiating exercise program.
Some of the proposed reasons for the benefit of exercise in claudicants include:
- More efficient oxygen consumption by leg muscles
- Reduction of blood viscosity (blood becomes less thick and flows better)
- Improved leg muscle strength which results in more efficient gait
It is important to note that the patients in the CLEVER Study who achieved the maximum benefit participated in a SUPERVISED exercise regimen. In other words, a health care provider was directing the exercise regimen and providing appropriate support.
At Panhandle Vascular Surgical Specialists, we offer both surgical and nonsurgical interventions to treat our patients. If you are diagnosed with claudication, we can create a customized exercise regimen to improve your overall vascular health and hopefully, avoid surgery. We are passionate about delivering the highest quality vascular care to our patients! Call today for an appointment!
- Murphy, T. P., Cutlip, D., Regensteiner, J. G., et al. Stenting vs. Supervised Exercise for Claudication Due to Aortoiliac Peripheral Artery Disease: 6-Month Outcomes from the CLEVER Study. Circulation. 2012; 125:130–139.
- Saraf et al(2014). Exercise in Peripheral Arterial Disease.Stanley.James, C. et al. Current Therapy in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. Available from: Elsevier eBooks+, (5th Edition). Elsevier – OHCE, 2014.