Background: Exercise programs for patients with heart failure have often enrolled and evaluated relatively healthy, young patients. They also have not measured the impact of exercise performance on daily activities and quality of life.
Methods and results: We investigated the impact of a 6-month supervised and graded exercise program in 33 elderly patients with moderate to severe heart failure randomized to usual care or an exercise program. Six of 17 patients did not tolerate the exercise program. Of those who did, peak oxygen consumption increased by 2.4 +/- 2.8 mL/kg/min (P < .05) and 6-minute walk increased by 194 ft (P < .05). However, outpatient energy expenditure did not increase, as measured by either the doubly labeled water technique or Caltrac accelerometer. Perceived quality of life also did not improve, as measured by the Medical Outcomes Study, Functional Status Assessment, or Minnesota Living With Heart Failure questionnaires.
Conclusion: Elderly patients with severe heart failure can safely exercise, with an improvement in peak exercise tolerance. However, not all patients will benefit, and daily energy expenditure and quality of life do not improve to the same extent as peak exercise.