AEROBIC physical exercise has shown consistency in recent studies as an effective non-drug treatment strategy for patients recovering from heart failure.
In this area, a cardiopulmonary exercise test is considered the gold standard in determining the maximum exercise intensity for prescribing exercise strategy. It can measure the cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory responses of the person to his or her anaerobic limit and the point of respiratory compensation.
However, this test is machine-based and is not even available in most cardiovascular rehab centers.
Early this year, eight Brazilian cardiologists headed by Mayron F. Oliveira tested two alternative models of exercises, which can also be used in determining maximum exercise intensity to replace the cardiopulmonary exercise test more conveniently while showing comparatively effective outcomes in its exercise therapy objectives. They reported their findings in the Brazilian Archive of Cardiology.
These two exercises are called the Six-Minute Walk Test (6MWT) and Step Test (ST), which individually can be performed for an interval of 48 hours and in different days alternatively. These exercises are simple, low-cost and can be performed at home.
The 6MWT is simply performed by having a regular, non-effortful walk for a period of six minutes in the morning under a tolerable sunlight or indoors.
The ST exercise requires only a duration of four minutes. The person simply steps up and down on a 0.20 meter (20 centimeter) high single step platform with no handrails and at a comfortable and relaxed speed.
As a measure of cardiovascular response, the person can measure his pulse rate before and after exercise to find how much change in pulse rate occurred during the exercise. The average pulse rate difference may be used as a benchmark should the person want to increase the exercise repetition per session. However, the cardiologist must be consulted on how much percentage of increase in the pulse rate can be allowed should the repetition be increased twice or more per session.
Sometimes the joy of rehabilitation is to take the initiative of doing it yourself, especially when the presence of a rehabilitation professional, which can be costly, is not possible. The key is one step at a time safely.