Systemic arterial compliance (SAC) makes an important contribution to cardiac afterload, and thus is a significant determinant of left ventricular work. Previous studies have suggested that arterial compliance may be reduced in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), and that SAC is increased after a 4-week exercise training programme in healthy, sedentary individuals. The present study aimed to investigate the effects of an 8-week exercise training programme on arterial mechanical properties, left ventricular performance and quality of life in CHF patients. A total of 21 patients with NYHA class II or III CHF (mean±S.D. age 55±13 years) were randomly allocated to either an 8-week exercise training group or a ‘usual lifestyle’ control group. SAC, as determined non-invasively using applanation tonometry and Doppler aortic velocimetry, increased from 0.57±0.11 to 0.77±0.14 arbitrary compliance units (mean±S.E.M.; P = 0.01) in the exercise group, while no change occurred in the control group. Left ventricular structure and function was assessed by echocardiography, and these parameters were unchanged over the 8-week study period. Exercise training significantly increased exercise capacity, measured by a 6-min walking test (474±27 to 547±34 m; P = 0.008). Quality of life, as assessed using the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Evaluation, demonstrated a decrease in heart failure symptoms from 46±7 to 24±5units (P = 0.01) following the exercise training programme. These data show that exercise training improves SAC in patients with CHF. The accompanying improvement in exercise capacity may be due, in part, to an improvement in arterial function.

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