BACKGROUND:Decreased exercise capacity is the main factor restricting the daily life of patients with chronic heart failure. N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT pro-BNP) is strongly related to the severity of and is an independent predictor of outcome in chronic heart failure.DESIGN:The study aimed to evaluate the effect of exercise training on functional capacity and on changes in NT pro-BNP levels and to assess the effect of exercise training on quality of life.MATERIALS AND METHODS:Sixty patients (45 men/15 women, mean age 52.7 years; +/-5.3 SD), with stable heart failure (45 ischaemic/hypertensive and 15 idiopathic patients), in New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class II (n=35) to III (n=25), with an ejection fraction less than 40%, were randomly assigned to a training (n=30) and a control group (n=30). The training group (30 patients) performed 3 months of supervised physical training programme using a bicycle ergometer for 30 min three times a week at a load corresponding to 60-70% of their oxygen consumption (VO2) peak. The control group did not change their previous physical activity. A graded maximal exercise test with respiratory gas analysis and an endurance test with constant workload corresponding to 85% of the peak oxygen load at the baseline and after 3 months were performed, and at the same times NT pro-BNP levels were measured.RESULTS:The exercise capacity increased from 15.8 (+/-2.3 SD) to 29.9 (+/-2.1 SD) min (P<0.0001) and the peak VO2 tended to improve from 14.5 (+/-1.4 SD) to 17.7 (+/-2.6 SD) ml/kg per min (P<0.0001) during the supervised training period. VO2 at the anaerobic threshold increased from 12.9 (+/-1.0 SD) to 15.5 (+/-1.7 SD) ml/kg per min (P<0.0001). NT pro-BNP levels decreased from 3376 (+/-3133 SD) to 1434 (+/-1673 SD) pg/ml (P=0.043). The positive training effects were associated with an improvement in the NYHA functional class.CONCLUSION:Physical training of moderate intensity significantly improves the exercise capacity and neurohormonal modulation in patients with chronic heart failure. This is associated with an alleviation of symptoms and improvement in quality of life.