Background: Exercise training in heart failure patients improves exercise capacity, physical function, and quality-of-life. Prior studies indicate a rapid loss of these effects following termination of the training. We wanted to assess any sustained post-training effects on patients global assessment of change in quality-of-life (PGACQoL) and physical function.
Methods: Fifty-four stable heart failure patients were randomised to exercise or control. The 4-month exercise programme consisted of bicycle training at 80% of maximal intensity three times/week, and 49 patients completed the active study period. At 10 months (6 months post training) 37 patients were assessed regarding PGACQoL, habitual physical activity, and dyspnea-fatigue-index.
Results: Both post-training patients (n=17) and controls (n=20) deteriorated PGACQoL during the 6-month extended follow-up, although insignificantly. However, post-training patients improved PGACQoL slightly but significantly from baseline to 10 months (P=0.006), differing significantly (P=0.023) from controls who were unchanged. Regarding dyspnea-fatigue-index, post-training patients were largely unchanged and controls deteriorated insignificantly, during the extended follow-up as well as from baseline to 10 months. Both groups decreased physical activity insignificantly during the extended follow-up, and from baseline to 10 months post-training patients tended to decrease whereas controls significantly (P=0.007) decreased physical activity.
Conclusion: There was no important sustained benefit 6 months after termination of an exercise training programme in heart failure patients. A small, probably clinically insignificant sustained improvement in PGACQoL was seen in post-training patients. Controls significantly decreased the habitual physical activity over 10 months and post-training patients showed a similar trend. Exercise training obviously has to be continuing to result in sustained benefit.