Chronic Heart Failure and Exercise Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Published:April 23, 2018DOI:



      The aim of this systematic review was to identify the effect of specific exercise parameters on physical function and quality of life (QOL) in people with chronic heart failure living in the community.

      Data Sources

      A total of 5 electronic databases were searched for relevant studies published after 1994.

      Study Selection

      The screening process was completed by 2 independent researchers, with a third independent reviewer for conflict resolution. Studies were selected if they included only chronic hHart failure participants, and the sole intervention was a structured exercise training program in an outpatient or community setting.

      Data Extraction

      Two independent researchers completed the data extraction and qualiy assessment. Quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation scales.

      Data Synthesis

      In total, 40 articles (n=5411) were included in the review for meta-analysis and meta-regression, including 27 randomized control trials and 13 cohort studies. Exercise was shown to have a positive effect on QOL outcomes (standardized mean difference 1.16; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.76-1.56) with the most commonly used measure, the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire, showing a clinically significant change of 8.5 points. Physical function was improved postexercise intervention in the 23 included studies (standardized mean difference 0.89; 95% CI, 0.40-1.38), with a clinically significant change of 49.8 m seen in studies using the 6-minute walk test (95% CI, 26.52-73.13). These improvements were independent of study design, study quality, participant demographics, disease severity, and exercise prescription variables.


      Exercise significantly improves QOL and physical function. Current evidence suggests that engagement with exercise is a more important factor in achieving improvement than how the exercise is performed. Future research should aim to identify and address barriers to engagement in exercise rehabilitation in this population.


      List of abreviations:

      CHF (chronic heart failure), CI (confidence interval), PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database), QOL (quality of life), RCT (randomized control trial), SMD (standardized mean difference)
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