Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is caused by reduced blood flow to the peripheral limbs due to blocked or narrow arteries, can be managed very effectively with conservative measures when it’s diagnosed in its early stages.
Exercise is a critical component of managing PAD because it can increase circulation and improve blood flow to the peripheral limbs. However, many people with PAD find that the condition’s symptoms make exercise uncomfortable or they may find exercise intimidating, so what is the best way to get started and what are the best exercises for someone with PAD?
Even for people without PAD, a proper warm-up before exercise is very important. It primes your cardiovascular system for your workout and increases blood flow to the muscles before you really get going. This can make your workout more effective, reduce soreness after exercise, and reduce the risk of injury.
Since your exercises will focus on your peripheral limbs, give your calf and thigh muscles a good stretch. There can be many good ways to stretch calves and thighs, but below are a few simple stretches to get you started.
Simple Calf Stretch
- Steady yourself by holding onto the back of a chair or couch, or with your hands against a wall.
- Stand with one foot ahead of the other, with your knee slightly bent in the leg that’s in front.
- Keeping your back knee straight and your heel on the ground, lean forward.
- You should feel the stretch in the calf of your back leg.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Alternate legs, for a total of three repetitions.
Easy Thigh Stretch
- Sit on the ground with the soles of your feet touching.
- Let your knees fall to the sides, in a “butterfly” position.
- Lean forward and hold your feet with both hands.
- Pull your shoulders back, sitting straight.
- Flutter your knees up and down.
- Use your elbows, to gently press your knees open.
- This exercise should take one to two minutes.
Most experts agree that walking is the best exercise for PAD. Because people with PAD often have painful or uncomfortable symptoms that limit their physical ability, a good way to get started with an exercise program is with interval walking.
Here are the steps for interval walking:
- Walk for a few minutes, at as brisk a pace you can tolerate.
- Try to continue walking, even if you feel mild pain or discomfort.
- Rest for a few minutes.
- Repeat intervals of walking and resting.
When you’re just beginning, you should try to start with about half an hour of total walking time, working your way up to 50 minutes or an hour. For a more rigorous workout, if you can tolerate it, climbing hills or stairs is a great way to improve circulation and PAD.
Some people find walking or other exercises too strenuous, and may want to consider aquatic exercise. Aquatic exercise can help improve exercise tolerance and may help you feel more comfortable branching out into other activities.
You can try a water aerobics class or swimming, but if those are too intense, you may try aquatic walking exercises to improve your circulation and PAD symptoms. Begin with a 10-minute underwater stretching warmup, before 30-40 minutes of walking in the water (forward, backward, and laterally), followed by 10 minutes of cooldown stretching exercises underwater.
Cycling can be a great benefit to people with PAD by helping people build walking endurance and improve hip range of motion. Some people may find cycling easier than walking, when first beginning exercise, or may find it a welcome rotation in a regular routine.
Treatments for PAD
Exercise should be a foundational step for anyone managing PAD, but some people find that additional treatments are needed to manage symptoms and reduce the risk for serious complications. At Beach Wellness MD, we offer several minimally-invasive procedures for people with PAD, including atherectomy, balloon angioplasty, and stenting.
Consult a Trusted Vascular Specialist!
If you have peripheral artery disease, talk to a trusted vascular specialist. At Beach Wellness MD, our primary focus is on restoring the health and quality of life for our patients. Dr. Ali Golshan, MD, is a leading vascular expert who specializes in PAD and other vascular conditions. Dr. Golshan emphasizes one-on-one treatment and designs personalized care plans for each patient.
Contact us online or call us at (310) 620-1851 today to schedule your appointment.
ABOUT DR. ALI GOLSHAN
Ali Golshan, MD, is a double board-certified leading vascular expert who specializes in in-office, minimally-invasive interventional radiology treatments at Beach Wellness MD. Dr. Golshan devotes personalized attention to each patient to develop an individualized treatment plan.
Dr. Golshan graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology. He then earned a Master of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a Doctorate of Medicine from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Golshan completed a residency in radiology at UCLA and a fellowship in interventional radiology at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.