According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 8.5 million women and men aged 40 and up in the United States have peripheral artery disease (PAD). You develop PAD if your arteries are clogged and damaged by fatty deposits called plaque.
Regular exercise improves your arterial and cardiovascular health. But one of the most common symptoms of PAD is something called “claudication,” which is leg pain that gets worse when you walk and improves when you rest. If you suffer from claudication, you may avoid even simple exercise, such as walking, because it’s too painful.
All forms of PAD improve with exercise, though, whether you have claudication or not. Here, vein and artery expert Jeffrey Gosin, MD and his team at Shore Vascular and Vein Center in Somers Point, New Jersey, share a few tips about how to exercise with PAD so you can feel better and improve your health.
The fatty plaques that clog your arteries and cause PAD took years or even decades to develop. Exercise improves your vascular health and reduces your risk of heart disease, but you might not notice any changes right away.
Be patient as you teach your body how to tolerate exercise and build up strength. Celebrate each small victory you have as you move from being inactive and fearful, to enjoying daily, healthy movement and exercise.
Even if you’re just going for a walk, take the time to slowly stretch your leg muscles. Simply bending at the waist while supporting yourself by putting your hands on a table or on stable equipment at the gym can stretch the calf and thigh muscles in the back of your legs.
Stand profile to the table and rest your hand on it while you carefully lunge forward to stretch the thigh muscle in the front of your legs.
Hold each pose steadily for at least 10-15 seconds. Don’t pulse. If your balance is good enough, support yourself with a hand on a table or steady equipment and gently rotate each ankle, one at a time.
Take it slowly
Even top athletes built their strength and endurance, piece-by-piece, over time. Once you’ve warmed up, start with just five minutes of walking at a moderate pace on a track, in the park, around your neighborhood, or on the treadmill. Don’t stop if you feel a little bit of pain; that’s normal.
Take a break
After you’ve reached the five-minute mark, take a rest until your pain subsides. Repeat the walk and rest cycle for at least 2-3 times to start.
Cooling down your muscles, tendons, and ligaments is just as important as warming up to avoid injury and stay strong. After your last moderate-walking session, add a five-minute cool-down of walking slowly. Then gently stretch the front and back of your leg muscles again.
Build on your success
As you build strength over the next couple of months, increase the total time walked (not rested) to 35 minutes. Once you’ve hit that mark, add more walking every day or two until you’ve gradually reached your goal of walking for at least 50 minutes (without counting rests).
Exercise is just one part of improving your arterial and heart health if you have PAD. To find out what other changes you can make to strengthen your arteries, or to get relief from PAD pain, call us at 609-297-5992 or use the handy online contact form.