Effects of supervised exercise therapy on blood pressure and heart rate during exercise, and associations with improved walking performance in peripheral artery disease: Results of a randomized clinical trial



      Supervised exercise therapy (SET) improves walking ability in people with peripheral artery disease (PAD). However, the effects of SET on cardiovascular health in PAD remain unclear. Using data from a randomized clinical trial, this post hoc analyses investigated the effects of a 6-month SET intervention, compared with a control group, on changes in blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) during a graded treadmill exercise test in people with PAD.


      We randomized 210 participants with PAD to either SET (3× weekly) or control (1× weekly health lectures) for 6 months. A graded treadmill exercise test, 6-minute walk test, and Walking Impairment Questionnaire were completed at baseline and the 6-month follow-up. BP and HR were measured at the end of each 2-minute stage of the graded treadmill exercise test. Mixed effects regression models compared the overall mean 6-month change in systolic BP, diastolic BP, pulse pressure (PP), and HR during the first 5 stages of the graded treadmill exercise test between groups.


      Of the 210 randomized participants with PAD, 176 (67 ± 9 years; 72 [41%] female, 115 [65%] Black) completed the graded treadmill exercise test at baseline and the 6-month follow-up. Compared with the control group at the 6-month follow-up, SET significantly decreased overall mean systolic BP (–12 mm Hg; P < .001), PP (–9 mm Hg; P < .001), and HR (–7 b/min; P < .01) during a graded treadmill exercise test but not diastolic BP. Among participants randomized to SET, a greater decrease in systolic BP, PP, and HR during a graded treadmill exercise test was significantly associated with a greater improvement in 6-minute walk distance (systolic BP, r = –0.19 [P = .03] and PP, r = –0.23 [P < .01]; and HR, r = –0.21 [P < .01]) and with maximal treadmill walking distance (systolic BP, r = –0.21 [P < .01] and PP, r = –0.17 [P = .03]) at the 6-month follow-up. A greater decrease in the HR during a graded treadmill exercise test was significantly associated with a better WIQ distance score (r = –0.27; P = .03) at the 6-month follow-up.


      In people with PAD, compared with a control group, SET improved cardiovascular health, measured by changes in BP and HR during exercise. The degree of improvement in cardiovascular health correlated with the degree of improvement in walking performance in people with PAD. NCT: 01408901.

      Graphical abstract


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