There are several types of exercise for chronic heart failure patients that research shows are very beneficial.

If you have heart failure, you will benefit more from exercise than from a sedentary life.

The first kind of exercise to consider is tai chi.

For patients with chronic heart failure, this form of exercise has been shown to improve their quality of life, as well as mood, plus self-sufficiency when it comes to exercise.

Unfortunately, up through to the late 1980s, those with chronic heart failure were instructed to avoid even light exercise — as they were deemed too frail for physical activity.

Exercises Other than Tai Chi that Are Best for Chronic Heart Failure

“In patients who actually have heart failure, ‘exercise’ means moderate levels of low-resistance aerobic activity such as walking, riding a bicycle or swimming at a comfortable pace,” says Roger Mills, MD, cardiologist and former professor of medicine, University of Florida, and author of “240 Beats per Minute. Life with an Unruly Heart.”

Want to try tai chi first?

A report on this form of exercise’s benefits to heart failure patients appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine (April 25, 2011).

At the end of the study, the tai chi group and the no-exercise group were tested for peak oxygen uptake for a six-minute walk, and there was no difference.

This is not surprising because tai chi is not considered a “cardio” exercise. But keep reading.

There WAS a difference as far as improvement in quality of life in the tai chi group.

Not only that, but the tai chi group experienced increased confidence as far as performing some exercise-related activities.

Tai chi can thus be a stepping stone to more aerobic-type activities like swimming laps, bicycling or walking.

Dr. Mills explains, “A study of over 2,000 heart failure patients published in 2009 showed that structured exercise was safe and helped patients feel significantly better.”

For people with chronic heart failure, tai chi sounds like an ideal exercise, especially since there is no impact or sudden movements.

However, to begin an exercise program, you need not take up tai chi.

Exercise for heart failure patients can come in all shapes and forms, including strength training. Be sure to speak first to your doctor about exercising.

Shutterstock/Mladen Zivkovic

Dr. Mills is the former medical director of the heart failure and heart transplant service at the University of Florida, was a staff cardiologist at The Cleveland Clinic and has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/uzhursky
[1] O’Connor CM, Whellan DJ, Lee KL, et al. Efficacy and safety of exercise training in patients with chronic heart failure: HF Action randomized control trial. JAMA 2009; 301: 1451–1459