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Support Groups for At-Home Walking Benefit PAD Patients

Patients with peripheral artery disease benefit from organized exercise program

THURSDAY, May 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Support groups that encourage walking exercises at home can improve the mobility of patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study published online May 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Mary McDermott, M.D., a professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues randomly assigned 194 patients with PAD, aged 65 and older, to an exercise group or a control group. For six months, those in the exercise group took part in weekly professionally led group sessions that encouraged walking exercises at home at least five days a week. Over a second six-month period, they received phone calls from the group leader encouraging them to continue walking at least five days a week. Those in the control group went to weekly lectures on health topics unrelated to exercise.

At six-month or 12-month follow-up visits, four out of five patients in the exercise group had regained mobility -- meaning they could climb a flight of stairs or walk one-fourth of a mile without help -- compared with just over 36 percent of those in the control group, the findings showed. After 12 months, those in the exercise group also showed significant improvement in walking speed over 13 feet, repeated chair rises, and standing balance. Mobility loss at any time during the study occurred among nearly 9 percent of patients in the exercise group and 34 percent of those in the control group.

"These findings are particularly important because PAD patients have significantly higher rates of mobility loss compared to those without PAD," McDermott said in a journal news release.

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