CHF and Exercise



CHF or congestive heart failure – is a serious medical condition that is caused when cardiac output is insufficient in meeting the needs of the body. In CHF, the heart’s pumping action becomes weaker than normal, causing the blood move through the heart, lungs and body at a slower rate. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen to meet the body’s needs, leading to a reduced stroke volume and reduced force of contraction, which eventually causes myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest. Congestive heart failure affects nearly one million Aussies each year. It is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in Aussies older than 60. Numerous researches suggest that men have a higher incidence of CHF than women.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure:

Congestive heart failure is caused by numerous conditions that weaken the heart muscle.

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Infections
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Smoking
  • HIV cardiomyopathy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Chemotherapeutic agents
  • Arrhythmias

The Acute Symptoms of CHF Include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Reduced blood supply to the kidneys may cause fluid and salt retention, resulting in swollen legs and abdomen.
  • Fluid accumulation in the lungs can cause shortness of breath, difficulty breathing when lying flat in bed, and wheezing.


A cardiologist will make the diagnosis of CHF by conducting a complete physical exam. He or she will ask about your symptoms and any conditions you have that may cause congestive heart failure. Your doctor will also ask if you drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs. Blood tests may be ordered to measure renal function, liver function and thyroid function. Electrophysiology, angiography and echocardiography may be used to identify arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease, stroke volume, or coronary artery disease.


Exercise training in patients with symptoms of congestive heart failure has been shown to have beneficial effects on the health of the heart. Numerous studies have shown that patients who exercise on a regular basis can improve their functional status and quality of life. A regular exercise routine also helps reduce the cholesterol levels and stress in CHF patients.

Walking, jogging, swimming and riding a static bicycle help reduce symptoms, improve lung function and increase exercise capacity. Performing any of aforementioned activities for 30 to 45 minutes four times a week is enough to raise your pulse and strengthen cardiac muscle. Interval training (an exercise regimen in which you exercise for a few minutes and then rest and exercise again) has been shown to deliver very good results without putting undue strain on your cardiovascular system. Gradually increase the exercise period to about 3 minutes and the rest period to 2 minutes, until your total exercise time is about 15 minutes per session. If you feel symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or abdominal bloating, stop exercise immediately until the symptoms are controlled.

Physiotherapy exercises such as breathing exercises and respiratory muscle exercises help improve lung function, and build up your chest and abdominal muscles to help you breathe better. Stretching and strengthening exercises help strengthen muscle groups in forearms, torso and legs, thus reducing fatigue and tiredness in CHF patients.

Call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 for expert physio help.