Supervised Exercise Therapy (SET) for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Doctors diagnose peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in 1 in every:

  • 20 adults over the age of 50.
  • 5 adults over the age of 70.

PAD is a vascular disease, caused by a gradual build-up of plaque within the leg arteries.

It may cause disabling symptoms, such as:

  • Leg cramping while walking.
  • Leg pain while resting.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Skin breakdown.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Cardiac Rehab centers offer a specially designed exercise program tailored to people with PAD.

What is Supervised Exercise Therapy?

SET can help people suffering from PAD pain.

The exercise therapy targets the muscles that hurt when you walk, such as the:

  • Calf
  • Thigh
  • Buttock

SET helps improve circulation and available metabolites that can reduce or get rid of pain while walking.

The program pairs moderate intensity exercise training with lifestyle changes, provided by a professional staff of:

  • Nurses
  • Clinical exercise physiologists
  • A registered dietitian, in some programs

Most insurance plans cover supervised exercise therapy.

How Supervised Exercise Therapy Can Help PAD

The goals of SET for people with PAD are to:

  • Increase functional capacity and walking distance.
  • Decrease symptoms.
  • Reduce risk factors for PAD, heart attack, and stroke.

These programs also provide:

  • Smoking cessation counseling.
  • Life skills to help reduce complications of diabetes.

SET gives the best results when the:

  • Exercise sessions last 30 to 60 minutes or longer.
  • Sessions take place up to three times a week.
  • Program runs up for three months or 36 sessions.

Who Can Take Part in Supervised Exercise Therapy?

To take part in SET, you must:

  • Have a doctor diagnose you with PAD and refer you to a SET program.
  • Display PAD symptoms, which are often reproducible when walking at the same pace and distance.

Symptoms may include discomfort (cramping, aching, pain) in the calves, thighs, or hips while walking that goes away when you stop walking.

If you have these symptoms, speak with your doctor. He or she can diagnose PAD with a physical exam and pain-free arterial ultrasound scan, often in the office.

What to Expect During Supervised Exercise Therapy

At your first session, our team will:

  • Take your vitals.
  • Go over your symptoms and medical history.
  • Discuss risk factors and lifestyle.
  • Have you complete a simple walk test.

During your SET sessions, you will work with staff to engage in a series of walking exercises at a moderate intensity.

Between walking sessions, you'll receive lifestyle health coaching.

SET for PAD Locations

We offer SET at our Cardiac Rehab centers.

» Find a supervised exercise therapy program at a Cardiac Rehab location near you.

Learn more about SET and PAD at our HealthBeat blog

» Vascular surgery for clogged blood vessels.