Purpose: We investigated the combined effects of repeated sauna therapy and exercise training on subjective symptoms, cardiac function, daily activities and ambulation capacity in patients with chronic heart failure.
Methods: Fifty four patients including 26 patients with repeated sauna therapy and exercise training (combined therapy group) and 28 patients with repeated sauna therapy (monotherapy group) participated in the study. Repeated sauna therapy and exercise training were performed once a day, 5 days a week. Clinical symptoms, brain natriuretic peptide concentration, cardiac functions evaluated by echocardiography, cardiac size on chest radiography, Barthel Index (BI) and ambulation capacity were examined and compared between the time of hospital admission and the time of discharge.
Results: Both the groups showed significantly improved New York Heart Association functional class, cardiothoracic ratio, brain natriuretic peptide concentration, left ventricular ejection fraction, BI score and ambulation capacity grade. The changes of New York Heart Association functional class, BI score and ambulation capacity in the combined therapy group were a higher level of statistical significance than those in monotherapy group. Notably, significant between group difference was observed in the changes of BI score.
Conclusions: The addition of exercise training programs to repeated sauna therapy may be efficient and effective for improvement of cardiac function and daily activities for patients with chronic heart failure. IMPLICATIONS OF REHABILITATION: Repeated sauna therapy is an effective means of improving cardiac, vascular function and mental health in CHF patients. Exercise training is an effective means of improving exercise capacity, thus improving ADL. Combination of repeated sauna therapy and exercise training may be recommended as a comprehensive treatment to improve cardiac function, ambulation capacity, and ADL in CHF patients.
Keywords: Cardiac rehabilitation; chronic heart failure; exercise training; sauna therapy.