Objective: Current guidelines for treatment of intermittent claudication (IC) do not include a specific recommendation for the intensity of exercise therapy. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine the relative effectiveness of high versus low intensity exercise for patients with IC, and further to study the effect of such training on blood flow to the legs during exercise.
Design: The effect of eight weeks of supervised endurance training was examined in 16 patients with IC. The patients were randomly assigned to training at intensities corresponding to either 60% or 80% of their peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak), respectively.
Results: VO2peak and time to exhaustion increased significantly (9% and 16%, respectively) more in the high intensity group (p<0.05). Blood flow to the legs did not change after training in any of the groups.
Conclusion: High intensity training gave larger improvements in VO2peak and time to exhaustion than low intensity training. As blood flow did not change after the exercise program, it is likely that the observed different increase of VO2peak was due to changed mitochondrial oxidative capacity and/or skeletal muscle diffusive capacity.