Fitness May Aid Heart Failure Patients
Aerobic Exercise May Be More Beneficial Than Strength Training, but Get a Doctor's OK First
June 11, 2007 -- Aerobic exercise such as walking or bicycling may help
heart failure patients, according to a new research review.
But before starting an exercise program, heart failure patients should seek
their doctor's help, notes an editorial published with the review in the
Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively
to the rest of the body.
In the past, heart failure patients were often advised not to exercise.
That’s changed in recent years.
The new review examines the evidence on the benefits of exercise for heart
failure patients. The reviewers included Mark Haykowsky, PhD, of Canada's
University of Alberta.
Heart Failure and Exercise
Haykowsky's team reviewed 14 studies that together included 812 heart
failure patients in stable condition. The patients were 57 years old, on
average; most were men.
In most of the studies, some patients were assigned to get aerobic exercise
for 20 minutes to one hour per exercise session. For comparison, other patients
weren't asked to exercise.
Four studies added strength training to aerobic exercise. One study featured
strength training without aerobic exercise.
The studies lasted from two to 12 months. Their bottom line: Aerobic
exercise helped, but strength training wasn't proven to be beneficial by itself
or in addition to aerobic exercise.
In a nutshell, aerobic exercise boosted the heart's efficiency and pumping
ability. The comparison groups showed no heart benefits.
Caution for Heart Failure Patients
Haykowsky's team calls aerobic training an "inexpensive and
effective" intervention for heart failure patients.
But the reviewers aren't telling heart failure patients to lace up their
sneakers and head to the gym.
They note that the patients in the reviewed studies may not be typical heart
failure patients. A large study that's under way may add more detail in the
years to come.
Meanwhile, editorialist Stanley Rubin, MD, FACC, reminds heart failure
patients to work with their doctors in planning exercise programs.
Rubin is a cardiologist with the University of California, Los Angeles
(UCLA) and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
"Caution is strongly advised" for heart failure patients starting
exercise programs, Rubin writes in his editorial.
He notes that patients need to have "realistic expectations of the small
but real benefit" they might get from exercise.
Heart failure patients must also attend to their diet, lifestyle,
medication, and medical devices. Exercise is "not a substitute" for
those things, writes Rubin.