Walking to induce leg pain may help adults with peripheral artery disease

Two women walk outside in a neighborhood

Adults with peripheral artery disease (PAD) who walked to induce ischemic leg pain through an at-home walking program showed benefits after six months as well as a year compared to those who walked at a comfortable pace, according to NHLBI-supported research in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Adults who walked to induce leg pain also walked faster after six months compared to those who did not participate in a walking program, but no differences were detected between these two groups after a year.  
As background, walking is a foundational therapy for adults with PAD, which can limit blood flow to the legs and feet. Due to limited blood circulation, adults with PAD can experience lower leg pain, cramping, or weakness and numbness in the legs and feet. However, research has been inconclusive about what types of walking programs improve PAD symptoms.  
To better understand this connection, researchers randomized 264 adults into one of three groups: a walking program that induced lower leg pain, a walking program that felt comfortable, or to no intervention, which served as a control. Adults in the walking programs walked up to 50 minutes a day, five days a week. Based on the study results, the authors conclude that adults with PAD should walk to induce leg pain, but more research is needed to understand how this approach impacts lower-body mobility and health.