Physical activity improves health, exercise tolerance and quality of life in adults with congenital heart disease (CHD), and exercise training is in most patients a high-benefit low risk intervention. However, factors that influence the confidence to perform exercise training, i.e. exercise self-efficacy (ESE), in CHD patients are virtually unknown. We aimed to identify factors related to low ESE in adults with CHD, and potential strategies for being physically active.
Seventy-nine adults with CHD; 38 with simple lesions (16 women) and 41 with complex lesions (17 women) with mean age 36.7 ± 14.6 years and 42 matched controls were recruited. All participants completed questionnaires on ESE and quality of life, carried an activity monitor (Actiheart) during four consecutive days and performed muscle endurance tests.
ESE in patients was categorised into low, based on the lowest quartile within controls, (≤ 29 points, n = 34) and high (> 29 points, n = 45). Patients with low ESE were older (42.9 ± 15.1 vs. 32.0 ± 12.4 years, p = 0.001), had more complex lesions (65% vs. 42%, p = 0.05) more often had New York Heart Association functional class III (24% vs. 4%, p = 0.01) and performed fewer shoulder flexions (32.5 ± 15.5 vs. 47.7 ± 25.0, p = 0.001) compared with those with high ESE. In a logistic multivariate model age (OR; 1.06, 95% CI 1.02–1.10), and number of shoulder flexions (OR; 0.96, 95% CI 0.93–0.99) were associated with ESE.
In this study we show that many adults with CHD have low ESE. Age is an important predictor of low ESE and should, therefore, be considered in counselling patients with CHD. In addition, muscle endurance training may improve ESE, and thus enhance the potential for being physically active in this population.