The study enrolled 19 children, aged eight to 17, who had congenital heart disease severe enough to consider restricting their activity and showed reduced cardiac function on exercise testing. None had findings on exercise testing that might raise a concern about the safety of rehabilitation, such as arrhythmias or chest pain. However, all 16 children who completed the program had undergone heart surgery or a nonsurgical procedure in the past, and eleven of 16 had only one functional ventricle, or pumping chamber.
The 12-week program consisted of twice-weekly, hour-long sessions combining stretching, aerobics, and light weight/resistance exercises. Activities were tailored to the children's interests, and included dance, calisthenics, kick boxing and jump rope. Balls, music, games and relay races, and age-appropriate prizes were used to keep the kids motivated, and sessions were moved outdoors when weather permitted.
"A lot of the kids were timid in the beginning, but they were really moving by the end. Being with other kids with heart disease who had never exercised helped melt away a lot of their anxiety. It was quite a metamorphosis," says Jonathan Rhodes, MD, cardiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Heart rate was checked before each session, and two to three times during the session. For safety, a pulse oximeter and external defibrillator were available on site, but were never needed.
At the end of the program, 15 of 16 children had significantly improved peak work rate, peak oxygen consumption, or both: their hearts were pumping more blood with each beat, and their muscles were using more oxygen. Improvements were as high as 20 percent on some parameters of function. There were no adverse events.
MEDICA.de; Source: Children's Hospital Boston