claudication scale

Walking Guidelines

  • Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Warm-up for 5 minutes before exercising by walking at a slower pace, just below the speed of walking that causes leg pain.
  • If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations or irregular heartbeats, and/or dizziness, stop exercising and call your physician immediately.
  • Walk as long as you can with the pain to maximize results.
  • Cool down after exercise by walking slowly for 5 minutes. You may still have some leg pain during the cool down, but it should be less than what you felt with the exercise.

Within a month, you should notice improvements in the amount of time or the distance you are able to walk before experiencing leg pain. In 3 to 6 months, you should notice maximum improvement in your symptoms.

Your regular walking program will help improve not only your symptoms, but also your overall cardiovascular health.

Walking Program Recommendations

FREQUENCY: You should walk 3 to 5 times per week.

INTENSITY: Intensity means how hard you are exercising. You should walk as much as you can even though you experience leg pain when walking. You can measure the intensity of your walking according to your leg discomfort. You should continue walking to a level of 3 to 4 on the scale to the right. Remember, your symptoms will gradually improve over time.

TYPE: A walking program is most beneficial for people with PAD. However, you will also receive cardiovascular benefits (such as reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and assist with current diabetes control) from any large muscle repetitive exercise such as cycling, rowing or swimming.

DURATION: You should walk for a total of 30 minutes and progress to 60 minutes. Walk as long as you can until you reach a level of 4 on the claudication scale (see box below). When you experience pain that reaches level 3 or 4, stop and rest until the pain subsides, then continue walking. Ideally, your exercise intervals should be at least 5 minutes long. You may need to walk at a slower pace to reach at least 5 minutes of walking without stopping to rest.

Walking Tips

Here are some additional walking tips to help you fit your walking program into your busy schedule:

  1. Take a “walk break” instead of a “coffee break.” Get up every hour and take a 5-minute walk.
  2. Don’t try to get the closest parking spot; park further away and add more steps to your day. If it’s feasible, walk instead of driving to your destination.
  3. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  4. Walk on your lunch break.
  5. Take a daily walk with your spouse, child, friend – or even your dog!

Reviewed: 02/16

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