Conventional exercise training has been shown conclusively to improve exercise capacity, quality of life, and even reduce mortality in chronic heart failure. Unfortunately, not all heart failure patients are suitable for conventional exercise programs for various reasons. The exciting new technique of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) of large groups of muscles has been shown to produce a physiologic response consistent with cardiovascular exercise at mild to moderate intensities by increasing peak oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, ventilatory capacity, and heart rate. Additionally, there is improvement in muscle strength. The handful of small studies that exist of home-based EMS training of leg muscles in heart failure show that EMS produces similar benefits to conventional exercise in improving exercise capacity, making EMS an alternative to aerobic exercise training in those that cannot undertake conventional exercise. The improvement seen in leg muscle strength promises also to improve mobility in this sedentary population.
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