Background: Hospital-based exercise programs using a bicycle ergometer or a combination of exercise modalities have shown positive benefits in heart failure, but may not be readily accessible to many patients. Thus, we sought to evaluate the effects of a 12-week home walking exercise program on functional status and symptoms in patients with heart failure.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial comparing a 12-week progressive home walking exercise program (n = 42) to a "usual activity" control group (n = 37) was conducted in patients with heart failure (78 [99%] male; mean age 62.6 +/- 10.6 years; ejection fraction 27% +/- 8.8%; 63 [80%] New York Heart Association class II; 15[20%] New York Heart Association class III-IV) from a Veterans Affairs medical center and a university-affiliated medical center. Functional status (peak oxygen consumption via cardiopulmonary exercise testing, 6-minute walk test, the Heart Failure Functional Status Inventory), and symptoms (Dyspnea-Fatigue Index score with a postglobal rating of symptoms) were measured at baseline and 12 weeks.
Results: No adverse events related to exercise training occurred. Overall mean compliance to training was 74 +/- 37%. Peak oxygen consumption and the Heart Failure Functional Status Inventory were unchanged with training. Compared to the usual activity group, the training group had significantly longer walking distances measured by the 6-minute walk test (1264 +/- 255 vs 1337 +/- 272 feet, P =.001), and improved postglobal rating of symptoms (P =.03).
Conclusion: In patients with heart failure, a progressive home walking exercise program is acceptable, increases walking distance, and decreases global rating of symptoms.