Recommendations for exercise in adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2020 May-Jun;63(3):350-366. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2020.03.002. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


The population of adults living with congenital heart disease (CHD) has grown rapidly in recent decades due to major advances in surgical and medical care. Although the benefits of physical activity (PA) and exercise are well recognised in the management of chronic diseases, the therapeutic role of exercise for the CHD population has been under-studied and under-recognised. In fact, people living with complex CHD have traditionally been advised against participation in moderate or vigorous PA due to safety concerns. However, a small but growing body of literature has demonstrated that PA and exercise are safe and beneficial for the vast majority of people with CHD following appropriate screening. Exercise training (ET) is a potent therapy to improve well-being and cardiorespiratory fitness, which likely has important implications for prognosis. This has led to ET becoming an increasingly important adjunct to medical therapy in the management of this group who frequently have significant exercise limitation and complex medical issues. However, there is currently limited evidence-based guidance that has been published regarding appropriate exercise prescription in adults with CHD. This article aims to provide an overview of different congenital heart conditions, their impact on the exercise response, and to provide considerations and recommendations for ET in adolescents and adults living with CHD based on the available literature.

Keywords: Aerobic training; Eisenmenger's syndrome; Exercise prescription; Fontan circulation; Physical activity; Pulmonary hypertension; Resistance training; Tetralogy of Fallot; Transposition of the great arteries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness*
  • Exercise Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult