The classic symptom of peripheral arterial disease is the intermittent claudication (IC). Generally, endurance training is recommended to improve patients’ walking performance. A potential benefit of the combination with strength training and the optimal duration of such an exercise program remain unclear.
Methods and results
We evaluated the effects of a supervised exercise program combining endurance and strength training lasting 6 or 12 months in patients with IC. A total of 94 patients joined this study; 42 completed the 6-month training program (group A), whereas 52 patients completed the 12-month protocol (group B). Both groups exhibited a significant increase in all parameters evaluated, but greater benefit was found in the 12-month training group. The absolute claudication distance increased similarly by 27.5 and 29.5 %, respectively, in both groups (not significant); however, group B exhibited a greater increase in walking speed (12.1 vs. 5.3 %, p < 0.001). All strength parameters increased significantly in both the groups showing an increase for “pushing” by 90.0 % (group A) and 90.2 % (group B), for “pulling” by 64.2 % (group A) and 75.3 % (group B), and for “tiptoe standing” by 70.5 % (group A) and 113.7 % (group B; p < 0.05).
The results of this study indicate that a combined exercise program significantly increases walking speed, absolute claudication distance, and muscle strength parameters. A greater benefit seems to result from a 12-month training program.