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Light Exercise Staves Off Heart Failure

Rat study suggests moderate activity is safe and effective for patients

TUESDAY, Dec. 6, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A study in treadmill-running rats suggests that low-intensity exercise can delay heart failure in humans and extend the lives of people with congestive heart failure.

Rats with an animal model of congestive heart failure (CHF) were exercised on treadmills at speeds equal to brisk walking in humans.

"We found that low-intensity exercise training markedly delayed the onset of overt CHF without a reduction in antecedent hypertension," concluded researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Ohio State University, in Columbus.

"Additionally, we found that some, but not all, of the classic cellular and systemic physiological alterations normally associated with the development of overt CHF were attenuated with exercise training," the study authors added.

"The key findings in this study are that (1) exercise can delay the onset of decompensated heart failure and improve survivability and (2) this effect is strongly dependent on the level of intensity of the exercise. You can push the level over the edge quickly," laboratory director Russell L. Moore said in a prepared statement.

"Not that long ago, clinicians were afraid to even suggest a little exercise in patients with CHF. However, our study, along with several human studies, shows a definite trend indicating that moderate intensity exercise has a potential role in stemming the downward spiral in heart failure," Moore said.

He said that exercise in the early stages of CHF may help delay the need for more expensive drug treatments, which also cause side effects.

The study was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart failure.

SOURCE: American Physiological Society, news release, Dec. 6, 2005
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