Peripheral Artery Disease Significantly Improved With Walking

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) are blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the legs and are common in older adults. The blockages result from plaques that  build up in the arteries which diminish blood flow. When this happens, muscles and other tissues can’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need from blood.


peripheral artery disease

Because exercise increases oxygen demand, walking can first trigger symptoms like fatigue and feeling pain in the legs. However, after resting for several minutes, people with peripheral artery disease notice that leg pain usually fades because blood flow and oxygen delivery are again sufficient.

Peripheral Artery Disease: Treatments

Previous studies of adults with PAD suggested that a drug called GM-CSF might help them walk longer distances without fatigue and pain. GM-CSF mobilizes stem cells in the bone marrow to move into the bloodstream. Animal studies suggested that these stem cells, which produce white blood cells, could decrease plaque buildup in the arteries.


Peripheral Artery Disease: Treatment Results

Dr. Mary McDermott at Northwestern Medical School, funded by a grant from the National Institute of Aging, examined whether GM-CSF combined with walking exercise could improve walking distance in people with PAD. This group was compared to a group given walking exercise combined with a placebo. The researchers compared how far each participant could walk in 6 minutes before treatment and then again after 12 weeks.

The results were unexpected.

As expected, walking alone, or walking with placebo significantly improved walking distance compared to walking with GM-CSF or for GM-CSF alone. Indeed, the most surprising result was that walking distance wasn’t improved with GM-CSF alone, either.



Walking, even for short periods is healthy, as it improves the circulatory system and reduces pain. Senior adults suffering from PAD benefitted from walking exercise. Drug therapy alone was ineffective and only marginally helpful when paired with walking exercise.

So people, get out there and walk!

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