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"It's disappointing," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a former heart association president and an exercise specialist at the University of Colorado at Denver. "You cannot make strong conclusions about subgroups."
Insurers now do not pay for exercise training for people with heart failure, and "this study is not going to help" convince them to start, Eckel said.
"We all would have liked to see a huge benefit to exercise," said Dr. Lawton Cooper, medical officer at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which paid for the study.
Still, for most people, "it is worth your while," Cooper said. "We know there are all kinds of benefits of exercise."
Among them: quality-of-life improvements, said Dr. Ann Bolger, a heart failure specialist at the University of California in San Francisco.
"Just the fact that it's safe is a huge deal," she said. "Patients want to be in control and to be active," and this shows them they can.
One study participant -- Lise Coleman, 44, of Fayetteville, N.C. -- said exercise dramatically improved her life.
"When I first started in the program, I was a pitiful thing. By the time I finished -- you know how they time you when you walk around the track -- I was the fastest walker," she said.
Doctors in the study gave her an exercise bike, which she still rides sometimes more than once a day. Her husband also bought her a treadmill, and she bought an elliptical trainer.
"I love it. When you have heart failure, your mind wants to do more than your body is able," she said. "I can do more than I used to."
On the Net:
Heart meeting: http://www.americanheart.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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