Physical performance and physical activity in grown-up congenital heart disease

Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2005 Oct;12(5):498-502. doi: 10.1097/01.hjr.0000176510.84165.eb.


Aim: To review exercise performance and exercise habits in patients with congenital heart disease (CHD).

Background and methods: Physical exercise and physical activity has shown beneficial effects on the physical, psychological and social level in adult patients with cardiovascular disease. Favourable effects have also been documented in children with CHD. Exercise testing is preferentially performed on a treadmill in children, with the measurement of gas exchange.

Results: An overview of the literature showed that formal exercise testing has frequently documented reduced or suboptimal values for aerobic exercise performance in children with left-to-right shunts (atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect), valvular heart disease and obstructive anomalies (aortic stenosis, pulmonary stenosis, coarctation of the aorta). Subnormal values for exercise tolerance have also been observed in patients with successfully repaired cyanotic heart disease (tetraology of Fallot, transposition of the great arteries, Fontan operation). An important contributing factor to the impaired exercise performance is the hypoactive lifestyle, as often observed in patients with CHD. This frequently results from parental or environmental overprotection.

Conclusion: These patients should be stimulated to be physically active, unless medical restriction is imposed. Fortunately, this represents only a small fraction of the total number of congenital heart defects for which sports participation is allowed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*