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5 Tips for Exercising with Peripheral Artery Disease

By Camilla Moore August 20, 2022 Health and Fitness

You may feel a little overwhelmed if you have been diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Don’t worry, though – we are here to help! This blog post will give you five tips for exercising safely and effectively with Peripheral Artery Disease. Follow these tips, and you will be on your way to living a healthier life!

As usual, make sure to first consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your routine!

What Is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral Artery Disease is when the arteries that supply blood to your limbs (peripheral arteries) become narrowed or blocked. This can cause symptoms such as leg pain when walking (claudication). Patients may feel mild pain with even short walking distances.

PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque comprises fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. If you have PAD, you may be wondering if it is safe for you to exercise. The good news is that, in most cases, exercise is safe and beneficial for people with PAD.

How Can Exercise Relieve PAD Symptoms?

Studies show that exercise therapy improves blood flow and helps prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. It also helps to improve your overall cardiovascular health, reducing your risk of developing PAD or experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

Exercise therapy has even been shown to help relieve symptoms of PAD, such as pain, fatigue, and cramping. So, exercise is a great place to start if you are looking for ways to improve your PAD symptoms!

Tips for Exercising Safely with PAD

If you have been diagnosed with PAD, there are a few things you should keep in mind when starting any physical training program.

  1. It is essential to consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. They can help you to create an exercise plan that is safe and effective for you. Doctors can also help evaluate your walking ability and confirm that exercise intervention is appropriate for you.
  2. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts as your symptoms allow. It is important not to push yourself too hard, as this can worsen your symptoms. Understand your pain limits and find your own optimal program duration.
  3. Focus on low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, and cycling. These activities are ideal for people with PAD because they do not put too much stress on your heart or your arteries and can minimize medical complications.
  4. Pay attention to your symptoms while you exercise. Stop exercising and rest if you experience pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. These may be signs that you are overdoing it.
  5. Make sure to cool down after your workout and stretch your muscles to help prevent cramping.

5 PAD Exercises You Can Do at Home


Walking is a great way to pump your heart and improve blood flow. Start with a slow walk, and gradually increase your speed as you are able. Walking is an excellent activity for people with the Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Don’t get too worried about your initial treadmill walking performance. The important thing in any exercise rehabilitation program is to start!

Patients with PAD have narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the extremities, leading to classic claudication symptoms such as pain, numbness, and cramping in the legs during physical activity. Walking is a low-impact activity that can help improve symptoms by increasing blood flow to the calf and thigh muscles.

Treadmill walking or walking outdoors is a great way to get your steps in for the day.

It is essential to start slowly and gradually increase your pain-free walking distance and speed as you are able. There is no maximal walking distance; instead, go with what is comfortable, and if you are hesitant, speak to a physical therapist about supervised treadmill exercise.

A short walking therapy program like this one can help you get started:

  1. Warm up for 5 minutes by walking at a slow pace.
  2. Walk at a moderate pace for 10 minutes.
  3. Walk at a brisk pace for 5 minutes.
  4. Cool down for 5 minutes by walking at a slow pace.
  5. Repeat this circuit 2-3 times per week.

Swimming to Improve Blood Flow

Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise for patients with PAD. The water can help take some weight off your legs and reduce pain. Here is a short program for swimming with Peripheral Artery Disease:

  1. Start by walking in the water to warm up your muscles.
  2. Then, start swimming laps at a moderate pace.
  3. Take a break to rest your muscles and catch your breath.
  4. When you are finished, walk in the water again to cool down your muscles.
  5. Repeat this routine 2-3 times per week for best results.

Cycling to Exercise Calf and Thigh Muscles

Cycling is a great way to exercise without putting too much stress on your joints and improve lower extremity functioning. If you have access to a stationary bike, start with low resistance and increase as you can. For seniors, electric tricycles or recumbent bikes can be a great way to exercise for PAD without additional stress on joints.

Here’s a short program so start on a bike with PAD:

  1. Start with 5 minutes of easy spinning.
  2. Increase the resistance and pedal for 3 minutes at a moderate pace.
  3. Return to an easy spinning for 2 minutes to catch your breath.
  4. Increase the resistance again and finish with 1 minute of hard pedaling.
  5. Repeat this cycle 3-5 times, depending on your fitness level.

Remember to warm up before starting and cool down after you’re done. Cycling is an excellent workout for your legs, but it’s also low-impact so that it won’t aggravate your PAD symptoms.


People with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) often have reduced flexibility and increased stress. Yoga can help improve both of these conditions. Many different yoga poses can be beneficial for people with PAD. Some PAD exercises that can help improve flexibility include the following:

The Cat-Cow Pose: This pose helps to stretch the back and neck. It also helps to massage the spinal cord and relax the nervous system.

The Cobra Pose: This pose helps to stretch the chest, shoulders, and abdomen. It also helps to strengthen the back muscles.

The Triangle Pose: This pose helps to stretch the sides of the body and the hips. It also helps to open up the chest and lungs.

The Bridge Pose: This pose helps to stretch the back and chest. It also helps to strengthen the back muscles.

The Child’s Pose: This pose helps to calm the mind and relax the body. It is often used as a resting position between other yoga poses.

The Corpse Pose: This pose helps to relax the entire body deeply. It is often done at the end of a yoga practice.

Yoga can also help reduce stress by promoting relaxation.


Pilates is a type of exercise that focuses on strengthening the core muscles. This can help to improve balance and reduce pain. For people with Peripheral Artery Disease, there are some specific Pilates exercises that can be helpful.

PAD exercises involve movements that help to increase blood flow and circulation in the legs and feet. In addition, Pilates can help to reduce pain and swelling and improve range of motion.

In addition, PAD exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the hips and thighs, improving balance and stability.

If you have Peripheral Artery Disease, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. But incorporating some specific Pilates exercises into your routine can significantly reduce pain and improve your overall health.

Do you have peripheral artery disease? What do you do to manage your symptoms? What exercises help you to keep your body active and pain-free?

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The Author

Dr. Camilla Moore is a Lifestyle Medicine Chiropractor and a freelance medical and health writer. She is a self-published author and you can read her other articles at her blog, The Wellness Cabinet where she writes about exercise, fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

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