Exercise: a molecular tool to boost muscle growth and mitochondrial performance in heart failure?

Kirsten T Nijholt, Pablo I Sánchez-Aguilera, Suzanne N Voorrips, Rudolf A de Boer, B Daan Westenbrink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Impaired exercise capacity is the key symptom of heart failure (HF) and is associated with reduced quality of life and higher mortality rates. Unfortunately, current therapies, although generally lifesaving, have only small or marginal effects on exercise capacity. Specific strategies to alleviate exercise intolerance may improve quality of life, while possibly improving prognosis as well. There is overwhelming evidence that physical exercise improves performance in cardiac and skeletal muscles in health and disease. Unravelling the mechanistic underpinnings of exercise-induced improvements in muscle function could provide targets that will allow us to boost exercise performance in HF. With the current review we discuss: (i) recently discovered signalling pathways that govern physiological muscle growth as well as mitochondrial quality control mechanisms that underlie metabolic adaptations to exercise; (ii) the mechanistic underpinnings of exercise intolerance in HF and the benefits of exercise in HF patients on molecular, functional and prognostic levels; and (iii) potential molecular therapeutics to improve exercise performance in HF. We propose that novel molecular therapies to boost adaptive muscle growth and mitochondrial quality control in HF should always be combined with some form of exercise training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Heart Failure
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2022


  • Exercise/physiology
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Exercise Tolerance/physiology
  • Heart Failure
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Quality of Life

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