Physical activity and peripheral artery disease: Two prospective cohort studies and a systematic review


      • Physical activity is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
      • Individuals with a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease (PAD) tend to be less physically active, regardless of whether activity was self-reported or measured objectively.
      • The findings from the longitudinal studies suggest that more intense physical activity is associated with lower risk of developing PAD.


      Background and aims

      Physical activity is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and an important therapy in individuals with intermittent claudication. However, its role in the development of peripheral artery disease (PAD) is unclear. We have examined the evidence of the association between physical activity and development of PAD.


      We searched PubMed, EMBASE and CINAHL Plus in August 2018 for original studies of physical activity and PAD. Studies reporting prevalence or incidence of PAD by categories of physical activity (an amount of activity per unit of time) were included. In addition, we analysed unpublished individual-level data from two register-linked cohort studies, Finnish Public Sector Study (n = 63,924) and Whitehall II (n = 10,200). Due to heterogeneity in the assessment of physical activity and PAD, we provide a qualitative synthesis of the findings.


      Evidence from 18 studies (15 cross-sectional/case-control and 7 prospective studies) of the association between physical activity and PAD in total of 152,188 participants, including 3971 PAD patients, suggests that individuals with a diagnosis or clinical findings of PAD were less physically active, regardless of whether activity was self-reported or measured using accelerometers. The findings from the longitudinal studies point to more intense physical activity being associated with lower odds of developing PAD; however, the study-specific findings lacked power to precisely estimate this relationship.


      Individuals with PAD were less physically active than those without PAD. The longitudinal findings suggest that physical activity decreases the risk of PAD, although better powered studies are needed to confirm this.

      Graphical abstract


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