What is a structured walking program for peripheral artery disease?


Much will depend on the severity of your peripheral artery disease.  For some, a walking program may be beneficial.  Being able to walk may help decrease tightness in the lower extremities and help prevent soreness and swelling.  However, prior to constructing any sort of program, you should seek guidance from your primary physician or a physical therapist.  After they have given proper guidance, seek advice from a personal trainer or someone within a fitness setting that may be able to assist in completion of exercises that were prescribed.

For some people who have peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a structured walking program can be excellent treatment. While it may seem illogical to walk if walking itself is difficult, it can actually help to gradually walk longer and farther. This is because the exercise you get from the walking itself may reduce leg pain and cramps, enabling them keep walking a little farther each day or week.

 If you have PAD, ask your healthcare provider if an individualized walking or treadmill program is a good option for you. Your healthcare provider may help you design a program that is right for you or direct you to a local hospital or a cardiac rehabilitation center for guidance.


If your healthcare provider recommends you try a structured walking program, the following guidelines are often recommended for beginners:

 • Walk at least three to five times a week.

• Begin each walk by walking slowly for several minutes and take a few minutes to gently stretch the thigh and calf muscles in your legs.

• Recognize that walking may hurt at first - and that is good. In fact, the goal is to walk at a pace that causes mild or moderate pain or tightness in your legs within three to five minutes.

• Pace yourself so that on a scale of 1 (least leg pain) to 5 (highest leg pain), mild or moderate pain would be 3 or 4. When you reach the 3 or 4 level of pain, stop to rest for a few minutes and then resume walking.

• Repeat several times: Walk at a pace that causes mild or moderate leg pain, then rest.

• To end your walking session, walk slowly for the last five minutes. Take another minute or two to gently stretch your leg muscles. 

 Over time, you may find you are able to walk longer with less pain. That is a sign that your blood vessels are recovering. It may take months, so be patient with yourself.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.