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Supervised training gets patients back on track


29 March 2004
The benefits of exercise for people suffering vascular conditions are well known, but a new study by Southern Cross University (SCU) researchers has found if that exercise is done under supervision it can lead to improvements in mobility by up to 200 per cent.

The results of the study, by Jianxiong Wang, a PhD candidate in SCU’s School of Exercise Science and Sport Management, have been welcomed by Dr John Graham, a vascular surgeon at St Vincent’s Specialist Centre in Lismore.

The ongoing study, being carried out in conjunction with Dr Graham, and university staff Dr Shi Zhou, Dr Roger Bronks and Dr Stephen Myers, is focused on what effects the supervised exercise training program may have on patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Mr Wang said PAD, caused by a blockage in the arteries in the legs, affected about 10 per cent of people aged over 60 years.

“They can’t get enough blood down to their legs, which leads to pain and difficulty in walking,” Mr Wang said.

The study involved more than 20 people who were asked to participate in a supervised exercise program over a period of three months.

Mr Wang found that the supervised exercise training program led to a 200 per cent improvement in walking capacity in people diagnosed with the disease.

He said most people with this type of vascular problem in their legs could only walk for about three or four minutes.

“We tested the patients on a treadmill and they started off doing about 3.2km an hour. At the beginning they can only walk for about 200 metres (about 4 minutes). After the training they can easily walk for 10 minutes on the treadmill and do about 500 metres.”

He said that this improvement would give most people enough mobility to complete daily tasks such as shopping.

Dr Graham said while the benefits of exercise were well known, this study demonstrated the most effective way of implementing exercise programs. He said it was something that could easily be implemented in the health system.

“It requires a little bit of investment to get it up and running, but it would be an excellent thing to get patients into,” Dr Graham said.

“We know that if people don’t continue with their exercise they will fall back. One of the big benefits of the supervised training is that someone is taking an interest in the patients, giving them a strategy and encouragement that they are progressing and doing well."

Dr Graham said while in this study the participants had individual trainers, it could also be done on a group basis which would be more cost-effective.

Mr Wang said the study would continue for another 12 months.

Caption: Jianxiong Wang checks the pain level as study participant, George Brown, records his walking time on the treadmill.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.