Exercise sessions offered to combat peripheral artery disease

A collaboration between York St John University and York and Scarborough Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is to offer a claudication exercise service to people suffering with leg pain as a result of peripheral artery disease.

The York Claudication Exercise Service launches in November and will be offered to patients who have been recently diagnosed with peripheral artery disease.

Claudication is a symptom of peripheral artery disease, which affects around 13% of adults over 50 years old, with factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol adding to the risk of claudication.

Newly diagnosed patients with intermittent claudication will be invited to attend two 1-hour sessions per week over a 12-week programme. Various patient outcomes will be measured at the beginning and end of the 12-week programme using questionnaires, walking distance tests and service user evaluation forms.

The service will be closely supervised by a vascular clinician and nurse, with specialist clinical oversight to the exercise programme from a cardiology physiotherapist. Following completion of the 12-week programme, patients will transition to community-based exercise alongside guidance on behavioural interventions and risk factor counselling.

The structured exercise sessions will consist of: 10-minute warm-up; 40 minutes of shuttle walking (6 minutes walking, 2 minutes rest, repeated 5 times); 10-minute cooldown including exercises to improve strength, balance and flexibility.

The academic lead for the service is Garry Tew, Professor of Clinical Exercise Science at York St John University and Director of the Institute for Health and Care Improvement (IHCI). Describing the importance of the claudication exercise service he said:

“Supervised exercise therapy is a safe, effective and low-cost intervention for improving health outcomes in people with intermittent claudication. Clinical guidelines advocate exercise as a first-line intervention. Exercise therapy is an area of growing activity at the University and the new service addresses a vital gap in local service provision.”

The service is also providing new opportunities for research. Lisa Sharpe, a vascular specialist nurse from York Hospital, is doing a part-time Masters by Research with the Institute for Health and Care Improvement. Her project will focus on the feasibility of establishing a new claudication exercise service in York.

The clinical lead for the service is Andrew Thompson, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at York and Scarborough Trust. He stated:

“We hope to offer this new service to patients referred by their GP with severe symptoms. This will provide people suffering with peripheral artery disease an opportunity to improve their quality of life, as well as providing long standing general health benefits. We are very excited to be offering this service in collaboration with York St John University.”