June 11, 2007 / 10:02 PM / in 11 years

Aerobic exercise reverses signs of heart failure

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In patients with heart failure, aerobic training can help the organ pump better, investigators report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In contrast, Dr. Mark J. Haykowsky and colleagues observed that strength training, either alone or in combination with aerobic training, appeared to be of no benefit. These opposing findings may underlie the inconsistent results of studies of exercise training in patients with heart failure.

Haykowsky, from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and colleagues searched for relevant studies and identified 14 trials that assessed heart performance in 812 stable patients with heart failure. Nine trials evaluated aerobic training, four evaluated combined aerobic and strength training, and one involved strength training alone.

Aerobic training improved heart function significantly, the results showed.

The positive changes occurred even though the patients were already on drugs proven to benefit heart function, Haykowsky’s team observed. In fact, they found that the magnitude of improvement in heart function was similar to that achieved with standard drugs.

On the other hand, results of strength training, with or without, aerobic training were inconclusive.

In an editorial, Dr. Stanley A. Rubin, at the UCLA School of Medicine, urges caution before starting heart failure patients on an exercise training program.

Rubin outlines the considerations to be taken into account when starting a patient on an exercise training program -- including pre-training evaluation, as well as the type, degree, and venue of exercise training.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, June 19, 2007.

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