Purpose: Resistance training has become an accepted part of cardiac rehabilitation programs. Because of the potential for a high afterload to have a negative impact on left ventricular function, there has been concern regarding the safety of resistance training for patients with congestive heart failure.
Methods: This study addressed this concern by studying 12 healthy volunteers, 12 patients with stable coronary artery disease, and 12 patients with stable congestive heart failure during upright cycling at 90% of ventilatory threshold, and during one set of 10 repeated leg presses, shoulder presses, and biceps curls at 60% to 70% of 1-repetition maximum. Left ventricular function was measured by echocardiography.
Results: The pattern of changes in heart rate, blood pressure, left ventricular ejection fraction, wall thickness, and left ventricular internal diameters was similar across all three groups of subjects, although there were large differences in absolute values. Despite elevations in diastolic and mean arterial pressures during resistance exercise, there was no evidence of significant rest-to-exercise deterioration in left ventricular function during leg press (ejection fraction, 60%-59%, 56%-55%, and 38%-37%), shoulder press (66%-65%, 59%-53%, and 38%-35%), or biceps curls (63%-58%, 53%-54%, and 35%-36%), as compared with cycle ergometry (63%-69%, 51%-57%, and 35%-42%) in the healthy control subjects, the patients with coronary artery disease, and the patients with congestive heart failure, respectively.
Conclusions: Left ventricular function remains stable during moderate-intensity resistance exercise, even in patients with congestive heart failure, suggesting that this form of exercise therapy can be used safely in rehabilitation programs.