Background: Despite major advances in pharmacological treatment of chronic heart failure (CHF), a number of patients still suffer from dyspnoea, fatigue, diminished exercise capacity and poor quality of life. It is in this context that exercise training is being intensively evaluated for any additional benefit in the treatment of CHF.
Aims: To determine the effect of exercise training in patients with CHF on cardiac performance, exercise capacity and health-related quality of life. A meta-analysis was performed to obtain this goal.
Methods and results: After including 35 randomised controlled trials, the methodological quality of each study was assessed, summary effect sizes (SESs) and the concomitant 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for each outcome. Quantitative analysis showed statistically significant SESs, at rest, for diastolic blood pressure and end-diastolic volume. During maximal exercise, significant SESs were found for systolic blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac output, peak oxygen uptake, anaerobic threshold and 6-min walking test. The Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire improved by an average of 9.7 points.
Conclusions: Exercise training has clinically important effects on exercise capacity and HRQL, and may have small positive effects on cardiac performance during exercise.