A home-based treadmill exercise program improved walking speed and endurance in people with poor circulation in the legs, a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD).
That's the finding of a study that included nearly 200 PAD patients whose change in performance in a six-minute walk was measured over six months.
Study patients who did the home-based treadmill exercise program increased their walking distance over six minutes by nearly 150 feet, compared with a decline of 36 feet among patients in a "control" group who did not do the exercise program.
Participants in the exercise group also improved their maximum treadmill walking time by nearly a minute and a half, while the change in the control group was about 30 seconds, according to Dr. Mary McDermott, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues.
The investigators determined that patients in the treadmill exercise program were about three times more likely to achieve a small, meaningful improvement (66 feet) in the six-minute walk and approximately six times more likely to achieve a large, meaningful improvement (164 feet).
Patients in the exercise group also improved their pain-free walking time and increased their levels of physical activity, the study authors reported in the July 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Although treadmill exercise appears to improve walking ability in patients with PAD, supervised exercise at a fitness center is typically not covered by health insurance and transportation to the facility may be a problem for some patients. In addition, current clinical guidelines state that there is insufficient evidence to recommend home-based treadmill exercises for people with PAD, so doctors do not recommend this for their patients.
Based on the new study results, clinical practice guidelines should advise doctors to recommend home-based walking programs for patients with PAD who do not have access to supervised exercise, the study authors said in a journal news release.
The "findings have implications for the large number of patients with PAD who are unable or unwilling to participate in supervised exercise programs," the authors concluded.