Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. As a result, you may experience leg pain during physical activity which can be managed through consistent exercise. If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re susceptible to Peripheral Artery Disease, the main risk factors are age, cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle and family history. People who have one or more of these risk factors should pay special attention to their cardiovascular health and take steps to reduce their risks such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and managing any other conditions that could contribute to PAD. Exercise for Peripheral Artery Disease is also essential to prevent it’s progression because it keeps your blood vessels open. In this blog post, we discuss how to manage the symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease with physical activity.

How Exercise Can Help

Exercise is a crucial aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle, but it is even more critical for those living with Peripheral Artery Disease. Exercise rehabilitation will help improve blood flow and circulation, which will provide more oxygen to your limbs, reducing the chances of the narrowing of the arteries. Exercise benefits can also include improved walking ability, a reduction in ischemic leg symptoms (this can include severe pain in your lower extremities), improved blood pressure, and more! You should aim to engage in moderate-intensity exercise training, such as walking, cycling, or swimming for at least 30 to 60 minutes per day.

Consult Your Medical Professional

Doctor with a clipboard

Before starting an exercise intervention, it is essential to consult with a medical professional. A doctor or physical therapist can evaluate your condition and recommend exercise programs that suit your fitness level and current health status. They can also advise on how much daily physical activity you should engage in. Additionally, they may ask you to fill out a walking impairment questionnaire to assess your mobility and determine which exercises are safe for you.

Focus on Low Intensity Exercises

Sneakers walking on pavement

When starting an exercise routine, start slow and progress gradually. While physical activity is essential for Peripheral Artery Disease, you should avoid high intensity exercise like running or jumping. Heavy exercises such as weightlifting and resistance training may cause painful cramping or claudication pain to your legs, especially for individuals with advanced Peripheral Artery Disease. Begin with low intensity exercise like walking, cycling, and swimming. These activities increase blood flow to the limbs without putting excessive pressure on them. Don’t forget to be patient – optimal program duration may take several weeks or even months until you to notice any significant improvement. Some signs of improvement can include increased maximal walking distance or pain free walking distance, and improved exercise performance.

Proper Warm-up and Cool-down

For any kind of physical training it is essential to prepare your body and muscles before starting your exercise sessions, which is why having a proper warm-up and cool-down routine is crucial. Just like any other exercise routine, patients with PAD need to warm up and stretch before engaging in any physical activity. This process helps to prepare the body and minimize the risk of injuries. Stretching also increases flexibility and reduces muscle tension. Start with a few stretches before you begin your exercise routine.

Cooling down after each exercise session is crucial to prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness. Cooling down activities include mild stretching activities like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Gentle stretches for your legs and feet can help improve circulation and reduce PAD symptoms. It is advisable to spend about ten to fifteen minutes cooling down after each exercise session.

Gradual Progression and Consistency are Key

It is crucial for PAD patients to build up their exercise routine gradually if they have not taken part in exercise activities previously or have not done so in a while. You can start with fifteen minutes of exercise daily and then increase the intensity and duration when you feel ready.

If you are just starting with exercise or have been living with Peripheral Artery Disease for some time, don’t try to push yourself too hard too fast as that may lead to further discomfort and pain. Start slow and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise. Consult with your doctor about physical therapy or ask them to create a structured exercise plan that you can follow. They may recommend supervised exercise therapy such as a supervised walking exercise or supervised treadmill exercise to get you off to a gentle start until you can increase the intensity of your physical activity.

Make Exercise a Habit

Lady doing yoga by the mountains

Regular exercise is key in managing PAD symptoms. Once you have made exercise a regular part of your routine, it will become easier to maintain and continue. Make a habit of exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It can be helpful to schedule exercise into your daily routine, whether it’s a morning walk or a gym session after work.

Include Strength Training

Strength training with a barbell

With time, you may be able to increase the intensity or duration of your workouts but be sure not to overexert yourself or cause any further discomfort. If you are just starting with strength training, it is important to start light and slow. Begin by performing a few repetitions of each exercise and gradually increase the number of sets as your muscles get used to the physical activity.

Air squats

Strength training exercises help build skeletal muscles and improve circulation for PAD patients. Squats, lunges, and calf raises are excellent exercises to include in your routine that help with improving lower extremity functioning. Resistance bands or light weights can be used to make the exercise more challenging to help you build strength. As you progress, add more exercises into your routine such as wall sits, heel raises, and lateral leg lifts.

Monitor Your Symptoms

PAD symptoms can vary from person to person, which is why it is essential to monitor your symptoms during and after exercise. You should pay attention to any changes in your heart rate or breathing. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, or increased fatigue during exercise, stop and contact your doctor immediately.

Man drinking water

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after exercising as well to stay hydrated throughout the activity. Finally, rest is just as important as exercise for managing PAD symptoms; be sure to get a good night’s sleep between workouts. With consistency and dedication to an exercise routine, you can make great strides in managing your Peripheral Artery Disease symptoms and regaining mobility! If you experience severe pain or discomfort, reduce your exercise intensity or duration. If the pain persists, stop exercising and speak with your healthcare provider.


Red blood cells

With proper management, living with Peripheral Artery Disease can be manageable and improve your quality of life. Exercise is an essential part of that management, and it’s time to start incorporating it into your daily routine progressively. Start slow, monitor your symptoms, set goals, and make exercise fun. Consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, and remember that every step counts towards your overall health and well-being.

At Tinsley Surgical in Wilmington, NC, we understand the importance of leading an active lifestyle and offer a variety of resources to help you get moving. Our team of professionals is dedicated to providing personalized support and treatment plans to ensure maximum benefit from your exercise routine. Contact our office for more information and begin your journey towards a healthier life.