Exercise training in adults with congenital heart disease: feasibility and benefits

Int J Cardiol. 2010 Jan 21;138(2):196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2009.01.038. Epub 2009 Feb 13.


Background: Regular physical activity is associated with a range of health benefits; however the influence of regular exercise training on exercise capacity and quality of life in adults with congenital heart disease [ACHD] has not been previously reported.

Methods: Prospective study of patients attending the ACHD clinic in a supra-regional centre, assessing feasibility and effects of exercise training. There were 3 phases: Phase I: Initial assessment including quality of life and physical activity questionnaires; treadmill exercise test; physical activity assessment with accelerometers [Caltrac and Actigraph]; Phase II: Exercise training (home-based walking 5/7 days) for 10 weeks; Phase III: Re-assessment.

Results: Sixty-one adults [36 males; mean age 31.7+/-10.9 yrs] were divided into 3 groups according to NYHA class. Fifty patients completed the intervention and all pre-post assessments. Group I (n=21; 13 males), Group II (n=16; 10 males), Group III (n=13, 10 males). Median body mass index was 23.8; 12 were overweight (BMI 25-29.9) and 7 obese (BMI>30). The scores of the quality of life and physical activity questionnaires increased significantly after exercise training in all three groups. Similar increases were seen in the treadmill test duration and in physical activity levels assessed by the Caltrac and the Actigraph in all groups.

Conclusions: A simple physical activity intervention like regular walking is feasible, safe and significantly increases the exercise capacity of adult patients at all stages of congenital heart disease. It is also helpful in improving the quality of life by improving physical self-perception, satisfaction with life, physical activity levels and general health.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult