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Can Aerobic Exercise Benefit People with Chronic Heart Failure?

Heart failure is the primary reason for hospitalization of Americans over 65 years of age. In the United States, it is responsible for nearly 300,000 deaths every year out of 500,000 sufferers approximately. It is suggested that incidences of heart failure are more commonly observed in men than in women. African Americans are more susceptible to heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the ability of the heart to pump blood progressive deteriorates. It is also known as congestive heart failure (CHF) when there is accumulation of fluid inside the tissues causing swelling in the legs and ankles.

To study the effect of exercise among chronic heart failure sufferers, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) examined 2300 patients for an average of 2.5 to 4 years. About half of the participants were given the usual care and were asked to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activities on most days on a weekly basis.

The other half also received the usual care. In addition, they were given 36 sessions of group-based aerobic exercise training under supervision. Each training session lasted approximately for 35 minutes with an average of 3 sessions each week.

For the remainder of the study, this group was asked to undergo weekly 5 times of home-based exercise training. They were also provided with a stationery bike or treadmill and a heart rate monitor to further assist in doing exercise. Though not much benefit was observed initially, but in the later analysis, it was observed that exercise training is associated with moderate (15%) reductions in cardiovascular-related death and hospitalization.

“Many patients and healthcare providers have continued to be concerned about the safety of aerobic exercise for heart failure,” said the Director of NHLBI, Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel. She further added, “With the results of this robust clinical trial, we can now reassure heart failure patients that, with appropriate medical supervision, regular aerobic exercise is not only safe but it can also improve their lives in really meaningful ways.”

It is suggested that low-to-moderate aerobic exercise training can improve exercise tolerance more in patients with non-ischemic myopathy than with ischemic myopathy. This can also help improve their quality of life.

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