Exercise May Aid Sick Kids' Hearts

Monday, December 5, 2005

CHICAGO, Dec. 4 -- Children born with heart defects who have traditionally been told not to exercise can improve their heart function through programs that involve exertion, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

"With the approval of a pediatric cardiologist, and after careful exercise testing, exercise is generally safe and tolerable for children with congenital heart defects," said Jonathan Rhodes, a cardiologist at Children's Hospital in Boston who led the study.

The report said 15 of 16 children ages 8 to 17 who underwent a three-month rehabilitation program showed significant gains in heart function.

The study's exercise program involved twice-weekly, hour-long sessions of stretching, aerobics and light weight-resistance exercises and included dance, calisthenics, kickboxing, jump rope, races and games.

All 16 children who completed the program had heart surgery or a nonsurgical procedure, and 11 of 16 had only one functional heart-pumping chamber, meaning they were a "sick group," Rhodes said. When the program ended, 15 children had significantly improved heart function, with the organ pumping more blood with each beat, delivering more oxygen.

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