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Heart Transplant Patients and Vigorous Exercise Beneficial
- Updated: August 29, 2014
New research suggests that vigorous exercise is beneficial for people having received a heart transplant. In a new study published in the American Journal of Tranplantation, 16 heart transplant patients who had undergone surgery less than one year prior were monitored. While some of the patients continued following a moderate workout routine as suggested by their doctor, others performed higher-intensity exercise to include training for several minutes at maximum heart rate.
At the conclusion of the 12-week study, researchers found that higher-intensity exercise was actually safer for heart transplant patients than moderate levels of physical activity. The study also found patients had increased oxygen levels by 17% compared to just 10% in those getting moderate exercise.
In addition, high levels of blood pressure were lowered with high-intensity exercise and in fact, systolic pressure, the highest number of a blood pressure reading, was significantly reduced whereas for patients getting moderate exercise, numbers stayed the same. Researchers also noted a rise in peak heart rate for patients in the intense workout group compared to those in the moderate exercise group. For heart rate recovery, improvement was shown for both groups of patients.
As stated by Christian Dall, leader of the study conducted at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, heart transplant patients today are given a much better quality of life, as well as extended lifespan. However, he goes on to say there are still limitations specific to physical function and compared to people who have not had a transplant, some reduction in quality of life because of impaired heart rate regulation following surgery and unpleasant side effects associated with anti-rejection drugs.
Dr. Dall went on to express that for a long time, there has been a definite hindrance for higher-intensity exercise based on impaired heart rate response but with the information released from this new study, patients not only remain stable but actually benefit from more intense exercise workouts. Properly designed exercise programs are well-received by heart transplant patients but also deemed safe.
Of course, at no time should a heart transplant patient begin a rigorous exercise program without first consulting the doctor but with the right exercise regimen established, the study shows incredible benefit.