Walking Program for Good Vascular Health

With peripheral artery disease (PAD), your leg pain can limit your ability to walk and decrease your quality of life. It may be difficult to go grocery shopping or walk from a parking lot.

Why be in a walking program?

You may be thinking, "If I can't walk from my car to the shopping mall without leg pain, how would I be in a walking program?" Research indicates that most people, after just six weeks of being in a walking program, have a 100 to 300 percent improvement in the distance they can walk before having leg pain. (This leg pain is known as intermittent claudication.) According to the American Heart Association, exercise therapy is the best treatment for claudication.

Begin your program by finding locations good for walking. Some possibilities include:

  • medical fitness center affiliated with your local hospital
  • outside sidewalks and paths (avoiding hills and slopes)
  • a track at a nearby school
  • a treadmill
  • shopping mall

When you go walking

  • Begin with a slow warm-up walk for five minutes.
  • Continue to walk at an increased pace. If pain begins, try to walk at least 30 to 40 yards more. Stop when the pain becomes severe. Record the number of continuous minutes you were able to walk.
  • Stop, remain standing and rest, until the pain lessens. This is a key part to your circulation and symptoms.
  • Resume walking until you must stop and rest. Continue this pattern until you have added up to 30 to 35 minutes of walking time. This does not include resting time.

Try to begin with a walking speed of 2 miles per hour (mph). Two mph is a speed where you can walk a quarter mile (four blocks) in 7.5 minutes.

  • If you cannot walk that fast, do not worry. Next time, try a little faster until you are able to go 2 mph.
  • If you are able to walk 2 mph or faster right away, that’s great!

How to progress to 60 minutes
Walk every day if you can, or a minimum of 4 days per week.

  • Week 2: Add 5 to 10 minutes over the course of that week; total 40 minutes.
  • Week 3: Add 5 to 10 minutes; total 50 minutes.
  • Week 4: Add 5 to 10 minutes; total 60 minutes.
  • Continue with 60 minutes for 5 to 7 days each week.

Once you have reached 60 minutes of walking time, increase your walking pace (how fast you go).

Take Good Care of Your Feet

  • Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, sores, cracks and swelling. Use a mirror to check the bottoms of your feet or ask a family member for help if you have trouble seeing.
  • Call your health care provider right away if a cut, sore, blister or bruise does not heal after several days. Your health care provider may apply a special dressing to help the ulcer heal and protect it from infection. You may also receive antibiotics (medicine) to fight an infection.
  • Wash your feet with mild soap and slightly warm water every day. Do not soak your feet because they may dry out.
  • Dry your feet well. Be sure to dry between the toes.
  • Use a thin coat of lotion and cream for dry skin, but not between your toes. Avoid lotions with perfumes
  • Use a pumice stone to smooth corns and calluses.
  • Cut your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times.
    • Never walk barefoot.
    • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet.
    • Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement.
    • Wear socks at night if your feet get cold.
  • Always check inside your shoes for worn areas or things that might cause sores on your feet. Ask your health care provider about special shoes.
  • Avoid crossing your legs for long periods of time. Instead, cross your legs at the ankles.
  • Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for five minutes, two or three times each day.