Modes of exercise training for intermittent claudication

Sandra C. P. Jansen, Ukachukwu Okoroafor Abaraogu, Gert Jan Lauret, Farzin Fakhry, Hugo J. P. Fokkenrood, Joep A. W. Teijink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

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Background According to international guidelines and literature, all patients with intermittent claudication should receive an initial treatment of cardiovascular risk modification, lifestyle coaching, and supervised exercise therapy. In the literature, supervised exercise therapy often consists of treadmill or track walking. However, alternative modes of exercise therapy have been described and yielded similar results to walking. This raises the following question: which exercise mode produces the most favourable results? This is the first update of the original review published in 2014.


To assess the effects of alternative modes of supervised exercise therapy compared to traditional walking exercise in patients with intermittent claudication.

Search methods

The Cochrane Vascular Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Vascular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL databases and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and trials registers to 4 March 2019. We also undertook reference checking, citation searching and contact with study authors to identify additional studies. No language restriction was applied.

Selection criteria

We included parallel-group randomised controlled trials comparing alternative modes of exercise training or combinations of exercise modes with a control group of supervised walking exercise in patients with clinically determined intermittent claudication. The supervised walking programme needed to be supervised at least twice a week for a consecutive six weeks of training.

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors independently selected studies, extracted data, and assessed the risk of bias for each study. As we included studies with different treadmill test protocols and different measuring units (metres, minutes, or seconds), the standardised mean difference (SMD) approach was used for summary statistics of mean walking distance (MWD) and pain-free walking distance (PFVVD). Summary estimates were obtained for all outcome measures using a random-effects model. We used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of the evidence.

Main results For this update, five additional studies were included, making a total of 10 studies that randomised a total of 527 participants with intermittent claudication (IC). The alternative modes of exercise therapy included cycling, lower-extremity resistance training, upper-arm ergometry, Nordic walking, and combinations of exercise modes. Besides randomised controlled trials, two quasi-randomised trials were included.

Overall risk of bias in included studies varied from high to low. According to GRADE criteria, the certainty of the evidence was downgraded to low, due to the relatively small sample sizes, clinical inconsistency, and inclusion of three studies with risk of bias concerns. Overall, comparing alternative exercise modes versus walking showed no clear differences for MVVD at 12 weeks (standardised mean difference (SMD)-0.01, 950/o confidence interval (CI)-0.29 to 0.27; P = 0.95; 6 studies; 274 participants; low-certainty evidence); or at the end of training (SMD-0.11, 95% CI-0.33 to 0.11; P = 0.32; 9 studies; 412 participants; low-certainty evidence). Similarly, no clear differences were detected in PFWD at 12 weeks (SMD-0.01, 950/o CI-0.26 to 0.25; P= 0.97; 5 studies; 249 participants; low-certainty evidence); or at the end of training (SMD-0.06, 95% CI-0.30 to 0.17; P = 0.59; 8 studies, 382 participants; low-certainty evidence). Four studies reported on health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) and three studies reported on functional impairment. As the studies used different measurements, meta-analysis was only possible for the walking impairment questionnaire (WIQ) distance score, which demonstrated little or no difference between groups (MD-5.52, 95% CI-17A1 to 6.36; P = 0.36; 2 studies; 96 participants; low-certainty evidence).

Authors' conclusions

This review found no clear difference between alternative exercise modes and supervised walking exercise in improving the maximum and pain-free walking distance in patients with intermittent claudication. The certainty of this evidence was judged to be low, due to clinical inconsistency, small sample size and risk of bias concerns. The findings of this review indicate that alternative exercise modes may be useful when supervised walking exercise is not an option. More RCTs with adequate methodological quality and sufficient power are needed to provide solid evidence for comparisons between each alternative exercise mode and the current standard of supervised treadmill walking. Future RCTs should investigate outcome measures on walking behaviour, physical activity, cardiovascular risk, and HRQoL, using standardised testing methods and reporting of outcomes to allow meaningful comparison across studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD009638
Number of pages56
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2020




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