Exercise can help patients become physically fit and less depressed after suffering a heart failure. Also, exercise has now been associated with a small reduction in the number of deaths and hospitalization in people who've been receiving treatments following heart failure.

"We do not know what comes first – heart disease or depression – but we do know the two are often related, and if depression gets worse, people have worse outcomes. Exercise has been shown to be safe for people with heart disease, and it also improves depression. These data show the combined benefits of exercise for this population include improved mental health and improved cardio-vascular health," said lead author James A. Blumenthal, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke.

In the present study, around 2,300 patients were enrolled from U.S., Canada and France. The participants were randomly assigned in to two groups; one group received usual medical care and exercise recommendation while the other group received medical care plus a supervised exercise routine for three months. After three months, the exercise group was asked to continue these exercises at home.

All participants, including group one, filled questionnaires that measured their level of depression. These questionnaires were administered once every three months during the first year of the study. Participants were also asked to regularly visit the hospital for check-up.

Researchers found that participants who exercised using a stationary bike or a treadmill had healthier hearts than participants who didn't exercise.

Moderate Exercise Lowers Depression

The study also found that people who regularly exercised had lower levels of depression than others. Exercise lowered depression scores meaning that patients developed a positive attitude towards life when they exercised regularly.

Previous research has shown that depression can be a factor that determines whether or not a person will live for long after a heart attack. Researchers say that almost 40 percent of people with heart failure suffer from clinical depression.  "This study shows that exercise is associated not only with physical health benefits, but important mental health benefits as well. It doesn't require intensive training for a marathon to derive benefits. We're talking about three, 30-minute sessions for an accumulated 90 minutes a week. And the results are significant improvements in mental health, reduced hospitalizations and fewer deaths," Blumenthal said.

Other researchers had found that patients who've had heart failure benefitted from exercises like Nordic walking as it doesn't cause stress (change in heart rhythm or blood supply) to the body and yet significantly increases oxygen consumption.

The present study is published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

The results of this study are encouraging for people who've had a heart failure. However, consult your physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.

"Heart failure is a very serious medical condition, and before anyone starts an exercise routine they should really consult their doctor," Blumenthal told Reuters Health.