Practice key for people with half a heart

For decades, Australians born with half a heart were told not to exercise as it could strain the muscle and even cause sudden death.

But a study from the Heart Research Institute, the world’s first, is looking at whether exercise is actually the key to improving the quality of life for people with congenital single-ventricular heart disease.

More Australian adults are living with the condition due to advances in health care, but are mostly inactive due to current health advice, says associate professor Rachael Cordina.

“Limiting physical activity was actually very useless, both for physical health and for mental health and sense of well-being,” Dr. Cordina, the study’s principal investigator, told AAP.

“As we’ve gained more experience and more scientific evidence, we’ve realized that exercise is very beneficial and not really harmful if done properly.”

The study, which begins in June, will follow approximately 400 participants aged 10-55 as they complete four months of intense resistance training.

The group is then followed for another eight months while they continue to train independently at home.

A preliminary study showed there were benefits to exercise, but this new Australian trial will provide more complete answers, says Dr. cordina.

“There’s still a culture of fear among some doctors and family about sports, so it’s important that we address those fears with the right science,” she said.

“We were able to use $5 million to run a good trial … to help us develop a good model of care that we can roll out for all the people living with these types of heart defects.”

People with congenital heart disease living in Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria are eligible to participate in the study.

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