Aims: Benefit from exercise training in heart failure has mainly been shown in men with ischaemic disease. We aimed to examine the effects of exercise training in heart failure patients < or = 75 years old of both sexes and with various aetiology.
Methods and results: Fifty-four patients with stable mild-to-moderate heart failure were randomized to exercise or control, and 49 completed the study (49% > or = 65 years; 29% women; 24% non-ischaemic aetiology; training, n = 22; controls, n = 27). The exercise programme consisted of bicycle training at 80% of maximal intensity over a period of 4 months. Improvements vs controls were found regarding maximal exercise capacity (6 +/- 12 vs -4 +/- 12% [mean +/- SD], P < 0.01) and global quality-of-life (2  vs 0  units [median ¿inter-quartile range¿], P < 0.01), but not regarding maximal oxygen consumption or the dyspnoea-fatigue index. All of these four variables significantly improved in men with ischaemic aetiology compared with controls (n = 11). However, none of these variables improved in women with ischaemic aetiology (n = 5), or in patients with non-ischaemic aetiology (n = 6). The training response was independent of age, left ventricular systolic function, and maximal oxygen consumption. No training-related adverse effects were reported.
Conclusion: Supervised exercise training was safe and beneficial in heart failure patients < or = 75 years, especially in men with ischaemic aetiology. The effects of exercise training in women and patients with non-ischaemic aetiology should be further examined.