Doctors have warned heart patients off physical exercise, and prescribed drugs or even a pacemaker instead—but walking every day at a moderate pace has all the same benefits, new research has discovered.
Heart patients have been strictly forbidden from exercising because it was feared it would compromise the heart's pumping action further—but the very reverse is true, researchers from the Technical University of Munich found.
After just 12 weeks of walking 3,000 steps every day, the pumping function improved in patients, which, in turn, improved their ability to exercise. Moderate exercise—completing the steps in 30 minutes—had as much benefit as more vigorous, intensive exercising.
The researchers tried different approaches on a group of 261 people with congestive heart failure, one of the most common causes of death in the industrialized world. Over the course of a year, they tried different types of exercise under supervision, and were advised to continue the programme for the other nine months.
Overall, moderate walking decreased strain on the heart, improved heart muscle function, improved blood vessel dilation, helped form new blood vessels, and lowered blood pressure levels.
The discovery is a major advance, say researchers. Congestive heart failure has been considered as lethal as cancer, and sufferers had little hope for a long life.