Safety and Efficacy of Resistance Training in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure: Research-Based Evidence

Melissa J. Benton, MSN, RN, APRN, BC


Prog Cardiovasc Nurs. 2005;20(1):17-23. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Although a rich body of research exists regarding the safety and efficacy of resistance training, health care providers continue to caution patients with heart failure not to engage in this type of exercise. Research studies utilizing resistance training demonstrate improvements in muscular strength and endurance, New York Heart Association functional class, and quality of life. Despite the hemodynamic changes which occur during resistance exercise, no negative outcomes have been reported. The purpose of this paper is to review the most current research regarding the use of resistance training with heart failure patients to provide assistance to clinicians and enable them to provide education and appropriate recommendations to their patients.

Evidence for the safety and efficacy of resistance training with congestive or chronic heart failure (CHF) patients is well documented in the literature, yet clinical recommendations from health care providers still include cautions against this type of exercise training. This may be due to lack of familiarity with or understanding of the research which has been done in this area. The American Heart Association has published an extensive statement for health professionals regarding exercise and physical activity for individuals with cardiovascular (CV) disease.[1] Unfortunately, it fails to include any discussion of resistance training. A paper prepared for the American Heart Association by Pollock et al.[2] discusses the benefits of resistance training for individuals with coronary artery disease (CAD), but does not discuss CHF, except as a contraindication for this type of training. The authors' summary states that the lack of data precludes their recommending the routine use of resistance training in moderate-to-high-risk cardiac patients.[2] It is the purpose of this paper to summarize for interested clinicians the most current research regarding the efficacy and safety of resistance exercise in CHF patients. Nurses, because of their frequent contact with patients and other members of the interdisciplinary team, and the high regard in which they are held by members of the public, are ideally suited to provide health-care education.