Harvard Heart Letter

Any exercise better than none to thwart peripheral artery disease

People with peripheral artery disease (PAD) often experience leg pain when they walk or exercise. No wonder they tend to be inactive. But research suggests that inactivity contributes to the development of this common condition in the first place.

Australian investigators found that people who engage in regular, lifetime physical activity — even a daily stroll with the family dog — are less likely to develop PAD than their couch-potato counterparts.

Researchers tested nearly 1,400 people for PAD and asked them about their lifetime physical activity. Those who reported "no lifetime recreational activity" were 46% more likely to have peripheral artery disease than those who said they'd been even a little bit active during their adult lives. You don't have to start running marathons; the greatest reduction in the occurrence of peripheral artery disease was between people with no activity and the next least active group, those who reported "mild" activity — roughly equivalent to a daily 15-minute walk at a slow to moderate pace (Journal of Vascular Surgery, August 2011).

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