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BACKGROUND: Research has highlighted the benefits of physical activity for people with stable heart failure in improving morbidity and quality of life. However, adherence to exercise among this patient group is low. Barriers and enablers to sustained physical activity for individuals with heart failure have been little investigated. OBJECTIVES: To explore reasons why people with heart failure do and do not engage in regular physical activity. DESIGN: A qualitative, interview-based investigation. SETTINGS: Three heart failure clinics held at hospitals in the UK. PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sampling was adopted to provide maximum variation in terms of gender, age, heart failure duration and severity, and current activity levels. Twenty two patients (7=female) were interviewed, aged between 53 and 82 years. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted via telephone. These were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Framework analysis was applied to collected data. RESULTS: Interviewees' narratives suggested that adopting positive health behaviours was complex, affected by internal and external factors. This was reflected in the four themes identified during analysis: fluctuating health; mental outlook; others' expectations; environmental influences. Failure to exercise arose because of symptoms, co-morbidities, poor sense of self as active and/or lack of perceived benefit. Likewise, encouragement from others and inclement weather affected exercising. CONCLUSIONS: Areas identified during interviews as influencing activity levels relate to those commonly found in behavioural change theories, namely perceived costs and benefits, self-efficacy and social support. These are concepts that practitioners may consider when devising interventions to assist patients with heart failure in undertaking and maintaining regular exercise patterns.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Nurs Stud

Publication Date





1234 - 1243


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Exercise, Female, Heart Failure, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Qualitative Research, Quality of Life, United Kingdom