Exercise Increased Life Span, Decreased Hospitalizations in Heart Failure Patients

Patients with heart failure who exercise show an 18% decreased risk of all-cause mortality compared with patients who do not exercise.

A recent study suggests exercise is associated with a longer life span in patients with heart failure, regardless of severity, age, and gender.

The researchers previously conducted a meta-analysis with heart failure patients and found that those who exercised were admitted to the hospital less and had better quality of life. Investigators observed whether exercise had an impact on all-cause mortality and hospitalizations to see if the effect was different in various subgroups.

The study, which was presented at Heart Failure 2016 and the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, included more than 4000 patients with heart failure.

"Patients with heart failure should not be scared of exercise damaging them or killing them," said principal researcher Rod Taylor, BSc, PhD, Msc. "The message for heart failure patients is clear. Exercise is good for you, it will make you feel better, and it could potentially make you live longer."

The researchers included 20 exercise-related trials with 50 or more heart failure patients. Researchers used patient data to evaluate how exercise impacted all-cause mortality and first hospitalization.

The severity of heart failure, age, gender, ischaemic aetiology, baseline left ventricular ejection fraction, and peak oxygen uptake were also examined. A decreased risk of 18% in all-cause mortality and a decreased risk of 11% of hospitalization was found in patients who exercised compared with patients who did not.

"This analysis did in fact show that there is a mortality benefit from doing exercise. In other words, patients who exercised had a lower risk of death than those who didn't,” Dr Taylor said.

However, the results did not indicate any variation between the different patient characteristics examined.

"There was no evidence that some heart failure patients gain more from exercise than others," Dr Taylor said. "The benefits of exercise are consistent regardless of the severity of heart failure, gender, age, and the other factors we looked at."

Researchers believe that heart failure patients should be motivated to exercise.

"Personalizing interventions and targeting resources is a hot topic in healthcare. Our research shows that all patients with heart failure should be encouraged to exercise,” Dr Taylor said. “Policymakers and clinicians should therefore not deny any heart failure patient the chance to participate in exercise rehabilitation on the basis that it will not work for them."

Exercise can benefit patients with heart disease by improving physical fitness, improving oxygen supply to the heart, reducing abnormal heart rhythms, and improved circulation.

“If heart failure patients are active we can be pretty sure that they will live longer. The simple advice would not be to take up marathon running,” Dr Taylor concluded. “This is about increasing one's routine physical activity -- for example walking for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week at an intensity that makes you feel a little bit breathless but not necessarily symptomatic. Discuss it with your cardiologist or GP with the belief that it's going to benefit you."