Background: Exercise training is now an accepted therapeutic intervention in patients with reduced ventricular function after a myocardial infarction. However, there are conflicting reports on the effects of training on the remodeling process of the heart, and previous studies have only assessed short-term effects of training.
Methods and results: Twenty-five patients with reduced ventricular function after myocardial infarction were randomly assigned to an intensive 2-month exercise training program or to a control group (control group: n = 13, aged 55 +/- 7 years, ejection fraction 33.3% +/- 6%; exercise group: n = 12, aged 56 +/- 5 years, ejection fraction 31.5% +/- 7%) and followed up for 1 year. Measures of left ventricular size, function, and wall thickness in the infarct and noninfarct areas were made by magnetic resonance imaging at baseline, after the 2-month training period, and 1 year later. Maximal oxygen uptake increased in the trained group, from 19.7 +/- 3 mL/kg per minute at baseline to 25.1 +/- 5 and 24.2 +/- 5 mL/kg per minute after 2 months and 1 year, respectively (P <.05 vs baseline for both), whereas the control group did not change significantly. Ejection fraction, end-diastolic volumes, and end-systolic volumes did not change at any measurement point throughout the study period in either the trained or control groups. Myocardial wall thickness measurements at end-diastole and end-systole and their differences determined by magnetic resonance imaging yielded no significant interactions between groups. When myocardial wall thickness measurements were classified by infarct or noninfarct areas, no differences were observed between groups over the study period.
Conclusions: Intensive exercise training in patients with reduced ventricular function resulted in a significant improvement in exercise capacity after 2 months, and this improvement was sustained over 1 year. In contrast to some recent reports, training had no deleterious effects on left ventricular volume, function, or wall thickness regardless of infarct area.