PURPOSE: This study was performed to test the efficacy of a supervised, hospital-based exercise program compared with a home-based exercise program involving minimal supervision, for both walking ability and quality of life measures in patients with exercise-limiting intermittent leg claudication. METHODS: Twenty-one patients were assigned randomly to 12 weeks of supervised exercise or to a home-based exercise group. After 12 weeks the participants in the supervised group transitioned to a homebased program. Both groups were then reevaluated at the end of 24 weeks. The initial claudication distance (ICD) and absolute claudication distance (ACD) on progressive treadmill exercise was measured at baseline, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks. Additionally, self-reported quality of life status was evaluated using the MOS SF-36 questionnaire. RESULTS: Each group improved (P < 0.01) ACD from baseline to 12 weeks, which was sustained at the 24-week follow-up. Both groups experienced similar long-term improvements (P < 0.05) in ACD (521.5 ± 253.4 meters to 741.9 ± 365.6 meters for the supervised group, 532.2 ± 263.5 meters to 715.0 ± 394.4 meters in the home group, P not significant, between groups). The supervised group experienced a greater improvement (P< 0.01) in the ICD after 12 weeks than the home group but not at 24 weeks. The on-site group also experienced significant improvements in lCD after 24 weeks (P < 0.05). Neither group manifested an improvement in self-reported physical function or mental health as assessed by the MOS SF-36. CONCLUSION: A structured exercise program was more effective in improving the ICD over a 24-week period than a less formal, homebased program. However, if patients are screened properly and receive adequate instruction, a home-based program can be a safe, low-cost alternative providing similar long-term (24 weeks) exercise benefits in ACD.
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