Congenital heart disease in childhood and physical activity

Regular physical activity is associated with a range of health benefits and should be a regular part of almost anyone’s life, including most people with heart disease. However, despite the benefits of physical activity, exercise may provoke acute cardiac events in susceptible individuals. In every single patient, one must consider the individual, the lesion and its hemodynamic implications, and the type and level of exercise contemplated. Children with heart disease should be encouraged to participate in physical activity within the limits provided by their cardiovascular impairment. In small children, motor experience not only determines their physical and motor development, but also influences their emotional, psychosocial and cognitive development. Regular exercise at recommended levels can be performed and should be encouraged in all patients with congenital heart disease. Some patients should be excluded from all but mild regular exercise because of the known high risk. Other patients should be encouraged to participate in sports without any limitation. A simple physical activity intervention like regular walking is feasible, safe and significantly increases the exercise capacity of young patients at all stages of congenital heart disease. It is also helpful in upgrading the quality of life by improving physical self-perception, satisfaction with life, physical activity levels and general health. From the preventive point of view, physical inactivity is a major atherosclerosis and obesity risk factor. Additionally, adopting a physically active lifestyle early in life increases the likelihood that children will become active adults.

Category: Review
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