Keeping up with a regular exercise program is hard for many of us. But a new study suggests that some of the people who need it most after a heart attack may be putting themselves at risk by not following their prescribed cardiac rehabilitation program.
Keeping up with a regular exercise program is hard for many of us. But a new study suggests that some of the people who need it most after a heart attack may be putting themselves at risk by not following their prescribed cardiac rehabilitation program. Researchers found that 14% of heart attack patients didn’t exercise at all in the year following completion of a formal cardiac rehabilitation program. In addition, those who did try to keep up with their prescribed exercise program exercised less often and with less intensity in the year after rehab. “It is critical that we work with these people to find out why there is such a drop-off,” says researcher Shirley M. Moore, associate dean for research of the Bolton School at Case Western Reserve University. “Either they don’t understand what is considered aerobic exercise, or we’ve designed a program for them that’s so uncomfortable that they’re not doing it.” Exercise Drops Off After Heart Attack The results of the study were presented in Kansas City, Mo., this week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Researchers followed a group of 83 men and women who had heart attacks, bypass surgery, or balloon angioplasty (a surgical procedure to clear clogged blood vessels) after they completed a formal 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program. The patients were given heart rate monitors and instructed to wear them each time they exercised over the next 12 months. They were instructed to exercise most days of the week for 35 to 45 minutes per session and record their activity in a diary. Although the average duration of exercise sessions remained constant at about 48 minutes, researchers found there were many drop offs in other exercise patterns. For example: The number of people not exercising in a given month increased from 18% in the first month to 55% in the 12th month. Frequency of exercise decreased from 10.4 sessions in the first month to 5.7 sessions in the last month. The amount of exercise dropped from 8.7 hours in the first month to 5.3 in the last month. The average time that a patient spent in the target heart rate zone during exercise fell from 34% in month one to 28% in month 12. Moore says the fact that so many patients were not exercising at all raises some serious issues and “booster doses” of cardiac rehabilitation may be necessary to keep patients active. (Source: American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation 2003 Annual Meeting, Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 16-19, 2003. News release, Case Western Reserve University: WebMD Health News: October 2003)