Health Team

Study: Supervised exercise can benefit heart patients

Posted April 7, 2009 4:18 p.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2009 7:44 p.m. EDT

Exercise used to be considered potentially dangerous for people with heart failure. Two recent reports from a large study done at Duke refute that belief, and suggest that supervised exercise can be both safe and healthy for those with heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. It affects about 5 million people in U.S., Duke researcher Kathryn Flynn explained.

When Lise Coleman was diagnosed with heart failure, her doctor ordered her to take it easy.

“They didn't want me to even lift a basket of clothes. I was scared to do anything,” she said.

Coleman joined 2,000 other patients in the HF Action study at Duke. Researchers divided the patients into a “usual care group” and an exercise group. The exercise group was supervised by doctors and showed positive results.

They found that for these patients, exercise training is safe and resulted in a better quality of life. Those who exercised also had a reduced frequency of hospitalization and death.

“We thought what was most important was to see if we could influence keeping these patients out of the hospital whether for any cause or for heart failure and whether we could prolong their life,” Dr. Christopher Connor said.

Coleman is a firm believer in the benefits of exercise.

”You're helping yourself feel good and when you feel good, you can do more. So exercise has been life changing for me,” she said.

Doctors recommend that everyone, especially heart patients, consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.