Calling Your Heart

Phone counseling helps cardiac rehab patients maintain exercise program

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sometimes patients just need an extra nudge. Regular counseling by phone to encourage physical activity appears to aid heart rehabilitation patients in adhering to a regular exercise program following rehabilitation.

In most cases, patients who finish the second phase of a cardiac rehab program have low rates of maintaining exercise after completing the program. Six months after rehab, only between 30 percent to 60 percent exercise regularly.

"Exercise regularly after a cardiac event."

Bernardine Pinto, study leader, and a researcher at The Miriam Hospital and professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, said it was encouraging to find that even patients who had exercised less when discharged from cardiac rehab were helped by telephone maintenance counseling designed to keep patients on track with exercise programs after rehab completion.

Patients that do not maintain regular exercise after cardiac rehab are at risk for repeated heart events or hospitalizations. Staying active in addition to prescribed medication can help reduce future hospitalizations in this high risk population.

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine whether home-based phone intervention would help support exercise maintenance. Patients who previously completed cardiac rehabilitation were randomly chosen to receive phone interventions with exercise counseling or to receive only phone rehabilitation support without a focus on exercise.

The 130 participants were followed for a five-year period. Both groups received the same number of calls.

In the control group that did not get counseling about maintaining an exercise program there was a significant drop in weekly exercise over time. At the six-month mark, the group that received counseling exercised about 32 minutes more each week than the control group. At 12 months, the control group was 80 minutes behind per week.

Researchers found that the group that received counseling by phone reported they were exercising at or above weekly recommendations, were more motivated to stay active and had better physical functioning at one year.

Pinto said that exercise is important for cardiac patients, and that keeping them active can easily be achieved through counseling by phone. She said that without such support, gains patients made in rehab could be lost with time.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 29, 2011