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‘Intensive' Exercise May Help Patients With Heart Failure

High-intensity programs more effective than low-intensity ones (October 31)

Although patients with heart failure have often been warned not to push themselves too hard physically, a meta-analysis conducted by researchers in New South Wales, Australia, suggests that they might actually benefit more from relatively intensive exercise. The new findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The aim of the study was to learn whether the intensity of aerobic exercise training produced different effects on fitness, adherence, adverse-event rates, mortality rates, and hospitalization rates in patients with heart failure. The researchers found that people with heart failure had a 23% improvement in heart function after participating in high-intensity exercise programs compared with a 7% improvement among patients in low-intensity programs.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 5.8 million people in the U.S. have heart failure. One strategy that has been tested in these patients is exercise training, such as the kind provided by cardiac rehabilitation programs. People who have had heart attacks or heart failure are supervised by medical professionals while they learn safe exercise practices.

In previous studies, exercise improved breathing and heart health in heart failure patients, but the improvements were smaller than expected. In the new analysis, the researchers looked at randomized controlled trials of various exercise programs. Their study found no differences in deaths and hospitalizations between patients in the high-intensity and low-intensity programs.

The authors noted that as the intensity of exercise training increased, the improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness also appeared to increase.

Source: Reuters, October 31, 2013.

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