Sports Medicine

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 231–244 | Cite as

Exercise Training for Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Belinda J. Parmenter
  • Gudrun Dieberg
  • Neil A. SmartEmail author
Systematic Review



Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a chronic condition with debilitating clinical sequelae, leads to reduced walking activity and increased mortality risk.


We sought to quantify expected benefits elicited via exercise training in people with PAD and aimed to clarify which prescriptions were optimal.

Data sources

We conducted a systematic search (PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane controlled trials registry; 1966–31 July 2013).

Study selection

We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of exercise training versus usual medical care in persons with PAD. Studies were assessed by two reviewers, 41 of 57 (72 %) of RCTs met selection criteria.

Data extraction and synthesis

Data extraction sheets were used to record data and two reviewers cross-checked data. Included study authors were asked for missing data.

Main outcomes and measures

Primary outcome: change in aerobic capacity (peak VO2). Secondary outcomes: ankle-brachial index (ABI), flow-mediated dilatation, 6-minute walk claudication distances (initial and absolute) and graded treadmill (initial and absolute) distances. The primary hypothesis was that peak VO2 would increase with exercise training. Using sub-analyses, we also aimed to clarify what types of exercise prescription would provide patients with most benefit; hypotheses were developed a priori.


Exercise training produced significant peak VO2 improvements with mean difference (MD) 0.62 ml·kg−1·min−1 (95 % CI 0.47–0.77; p < 0.00001); 6-minute walk initial claudication MD 52.7 m (95 % CI 24.7–80.6 m; p = 0.0002); total walking distance MD 34.9 m (95 % CI 25.6–44.1 m; p < 0.00001); graded treadmill initial claudication MD 68.8 m (95 % CI 54.4–83.2 m; p < 0.00001); absolute claudication distance MD 41.0 m (95 % CI 28.8–53.2 m; p < 0.00001)); but not ABI (p = 0.12) or flow mediated dilatation (FMD) (p = 0.96). Sub-analyses of change in peak VO2 after arm cranking showed a MD of 1.91 ml·kg−1·min−1 (95 % CI 1.28–2.54, p < 0.00001). Sub-analysis of peak VO2 according to exercise training pain thresholds suggested that no-to-mild pain may be superior (MD 0.79 ml·kg−1·min−1 [95 % CI 0.45–1.14, p < 0.00001]) to moderate-to-maximum training pain (MD 0.49 ml·kg−1·min−1 [95 % CI 0.31–0.66, p < 0.00001]).

Conclusions and relevance

Exercise training improves cardio-respiratory fitness, pain-free and total flat-ground walking distances, as well as graded treadmill performance in PAD. Exercise prescriptions for PAD may consider arm cranking as well as lower limb exercise, possibly at short vigorous intensity intervals, but only to a threshold of mild pain.


Electronic Supplementary Material Exercise Training Peripheral Arterial Disease Mean Difference Aerobic Capacity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge Mr Glenn Phipps for his assistance with literature searching, Glenn was not paid for this work.

The authors Neil Smart, Gudrun Dieberg, and Belinda Parmenter have no conflicts of interest to declare.

We would also like to thank included study authors who provided additional information.

There are no financial disclosures.

Supplementary material

40279_2014_261_MOESM1_ESM.docx (251 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 251 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Belinda J. Parmenter
    • 1
  • Gudrun Dieberg
    • 2
  • Neil A. Smart
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Clinical Exercise Physiology, School of Science and TechnologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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