A systematic review of rehabilitation in chronic heart failure: evaluating the reporting of exercise interventions

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    A large body of research supports the use of exercise to improve symptoms, quality of life, and physical function in patients with chronic heart failure. Previous reviews have focused on reporting outcomes of exercise interventions such as cardiorespiratory fitness. However, none have critically examined exercise prescription. The aim of this review was to evaluate the reporting and application of exercise principles in randomised control trials of exercise training in patients with chronic heart failure. A systematic review of exercise intervention RCTs in patients with CHF, using the Consensus on Exercise Reporting Template (CERT), was undertaken. The Ovid Medline/PubMed, Embase, Scopus/Web of Science, and Cochrane Library and Health Technology Assessment Databases were searched from 2000 to June 2020. Prospective RCTs in which patients with CHF were randomized to a structured exercise programme were included. No limits were placed on the type or duration of exercise structured exercise programme or type of CHF (i.e. preserved or reduced ejection fraction). We included 143 studies, comprising of 181 different exercise interventions. The mean CERT score was 10 out of 19, with no study achieving a score of 19. Primarily, details were missing regarding motivational strategies, home-based exercise components, and adherence/fidelity to the intervention. Exercise intensity was the most common principle of exercise prescription missing from intervention reporting. There was no improvement in the reporting of exercise interventions with time (R2 = 0.003). Most RCTs of exercise training in CHF are reported with insufficient detail to allow for replication, limiting the translation of evidence to clinical practice. We encourage authors to provide adequate details when reporting future interventions. Where journal word counts are restrictive, we recommend using supplementary material or publishing trial protocols prior to beginning the study.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3458-3471
    Number of pages14
    JournalESC heart failure
    Issue number5
    Early online date7 Jul 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


    • Heart failure
    • Systematic review
    • Exercise training

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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