Move Your Arms to Beat Leg Pain

Moving other parts of the body
helps the leg; © Picture Disk

The team, along with staff at the University of Sheffield, has found that upper body aerobic exercise can help the battle against peripheral vascular disease (PVD), a blood circulation problem, which causes severe leg pain and leaves patients struggling to walk even short distances.

"The cardiovascular function and walking ability of the patients with PVD who took part in the arm exercise programme both improved. The onset of leg pain was delayed during walking, and they were able to push themselves further beyond the pain barrier to achieve improvements in maximum tolerable walking distance,” said John Saxton, from Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Sport and Exercise Science

This is the first large-scale trial of its kind to show that a regular workout of the upper body can help ease the chronic leg pain associated with PVD. The British Heart Foundation-funded study found that exercising the upper body by 'arm-cranking', stationary cycling using the arms, improved cardiovascular fitness over a 24-week period and enabled patients to walk for longer without experiencing pain.

More than a hundred patients with PVD aged between fifty and 85 were recruited from the Sheffield Vascular Institute at the Northern General Hospital. Pain tolerance levels were measured in a series of walking tests at six-weekly intervals and the total improvements were calculated at the end of the 24 weeks. The average maximum walking distance increased by nearly a third (29 %), equal to an extra one hundred metres. Patients could also walk for fifty per cent longer before the onset of leg pain.

"The advantage of exercising the arms for patients with PVD is that they don't generally encounter pain during this type of physical activity. This can help to increase their motivation and enthusiasm for exercise. A reduced level of physical activity potentially contributes to subsequent disability and increases the risk of cardiovascular problems occurring," Saxton mentioned.

MEDICA.de; Source: Sheffield Hallam University