Although, for heart failure patients, aerobic exercise is a healthy therapy, lack of social support and barriers to exercise are keeping them from participating, a recent study suggests.

A research team studying the effects of exercise among heart failure patients suggest in their study that accessing and limiting such barriers to exercise may help reduce hospitalizations and heart disease deaths, according to a media release from the American Heart Association.

The research was published recently in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association Journal.

In their study, the research team studied data from 2,279 heart failure patients in a trial called Heart Failure: A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of Exercise Training (HF-ACTION). Patients were randomly assigned to receive usual care, which included detailed self-management educational materials without a formal exercise prescription, or usual care plus a 36-session supervised exercise program for the first 3 months, transitioning to home exercise for 2 years.

Patients in the study were given a survey that measured their perception of social support and evaluated the extent to which 10 potential barriers (for example: finances, child care, weather) may interfere with their participation in an exercise program, the release explains.

Among those in the exercise group, researchers found that heart failure patients with the highest perceived social support exercised more (118 minutes per week, on average) at 12 months, compared to those with the lowest perceived social support (92 minutes per week, on average).

Similarly, patients with the fewest barriers exercised more (86 minutes per week, on average) than those with most barriers (79 minutes per week, on average), the release continues.

“Assessing a patient’s social support system and barriers that may interfere with their exercise program may help medical professionals to customize exercise programs that better fit individual patient needs,” says Lauren B. Cooper, MD, lead author of the study and a fellow in cardiovascular diseases at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

“Patients, family members, and healthcare providers should work together to find solutions to the barriers preventing a patient from participating in a structured exercise programs, because exercise programs can help patients manage their condition,” she adds.

[Source(s): American Heart Association, Science Daily]