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Heart Patients Often Lose Heart to Exercise

Even close call isn't motivation enough for everyone, study finds

FRIDAY, Oct. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Even a heart attack can't convince some people to exercise, says a Case Western Reserve University study.

Researchers found many patients recovering from heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems have trouble adhering to a regular exercise program. The study was presented Oct. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Kansas City. Mo.

The study included 83 people, average age 62, who had a heart attack, bypass surgery or angioplasty (a procedure to clear clogged blood vessels).

After completing a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program, 12 of the patients (14 percent) did not exercise at all during the following year. The study also found the number of patients exercising, along with exercise frequency and intensity, all decreased in the year following their cardiac rehabilitation program.

Among the study's findings:

  • The number of people not exercising in a given month increased from 15 (18 percent) in the first month to 46 (55 percent) in the 12th month.
  • The frequency of exercise per month decreased from 10.4 sessions in the first month to 5.7 sessions in the 12th month.
  • The amount of exercise decreased from 8.7 hours in the first month to 5.3 hours in the final month.
  • The average percent of time that a patient spent in the targeted heart zone (a sign of a good workout for the heart) decreased from 34.3 percent in the first month to 28.2 percent by the 12th month.

"It is critical that we work with these people to find out why there is such a drop-off," lead author Shirley M. Moore, associate dean for research at Case's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, says in a prepared statement.

"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," she says.

Moore notes that older women generally are not big exercisers. For men, time may be an issue or they believe they're tough enough to overcome health issues on their own. Other men may be in denial that they even have a heart problem.

To get cardiac patients to keep exercising, Moore is considering a "booster" cardiac rehabilitation program, where patients can return every two months for follow-up.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about exercise and your heart.

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Oct. 17, 2003
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