New research findings reported online in Diabetes Care suggest that home-based walking intervention improves walking speed and quality of life in people with diabetes and PAD.

The study included 145 participants with diabetes and PAD randomly assigned to receive a six-month intervention that included one-on-one interaction with the research coordinator at baseline as well as: 1) walking training, weekly group walking classes with an instructor, and biweekly telephone calls for six months; or 2) a control intervention that included twice-monthly telephone calls with the research coordinator. Both groups watched a seven-minute educational video about PAD.

Although no significant difference was observed in treadmill walking distance, average walking speed scores and mental health quality-of-life increased for the intervention group but decreased in the control group. Based on these findings, the study concluded that clinicians should consider recommending home-based walking therapy for such patients.

Walking therapy has long been recommended for patients with PAD and diabetes. Similar to training your muscles for sports, walking trains the muscles to work more efficiently with the reduced circulation that is symptomatic of these conditions. This sort of aerobic activity is key to maintaining quality of life.

When patients encounter the pain associated with diabetes and PAD, the first reaction is to avoid activities that cause pain, such as walking. Avoiding exercise actually makes the body less tolerant, and patients become more immobilized. Exercise brings more oxygen to the area, helping to improve mobility.

The positive, measureable results in these recent studies confirm the benefits of walking therapy for diabetes and PAD patients. While we always recommend our patients get up and walking when they can, there is currently no organized, monitored protocol for home-based walking therapy. This study indicates that the development of a formal therapy regimen would be beneficial for improving a patient’s mobility and mental health quality-of-life.

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