Telephone Intervention Keeps Patients Exercising after Cardiac Rehab

Patients who have completed cardiac rehabilitation are more likely to continue exercising if they receive a phone call encouraging them to stay active.

Patients who have completed cardiac rehabilitation are more likely to continue their exercise regimen if they receive a supportive phone call encouraging them to stay active, reported researchers from The Miriam Hospital.

For patients who complete Phase II cardiac rehabilitation, a change in lifestyle is necessary in order to prevent future hospitalizations; this includes exercising regularly, taking prescribed medication, and sometimes something as simple as eating healthier. Unfortunately, many patients who complete Phase II cardiac rehab do not continue to adhere to an exercise program, which increases their risks of being hospitalized again.

"While patients benefit from taking part in cardiac rehabilitation programs, six months after discharge, only 30% to 60% of patients report regular exercise,” reported Bernardine Pinto, lead researcher of the study and a professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

This randomized controlled trial sought to create an efficient system which would keep patients exercising after they completed their rehab.

The researchers focused on 130 patients who had completed cardiac rehabilitation and randomly selected them to be placed into one of two groups: maintenance counseling or contact control. Those in the maintenance counseling group received a phone intervention which encouraged the patient to keep exercising at home, while those in the contact control received a phone intervention which was supportive in nature but did not focus on exercise.

The study lasted for five years.

The researchers found that the maintenance counseling group reportedly exercised at or above the weekly recommendations. They also found that this group felt more motivated to stay active and displayed better physical functioning than the control group one year into the study.

The control group, however, was a different story, as the researcher observed a sharp drop in weekly exercise in the control group over time.

Six months into the study, the counseling group's weekly exercise was roughly 32 minutes longer than that of the control group.

One year into the study, the counseling group’s weekly exercise was, on average, longer than the weekly exercise regimen of the control group by 80 minutes.

Pinto stated that she and her fellow researchers were happy "to find that even patients with lower levels of exercise at the time of cardiac rehab discharge were particularly helped by the telephone counseling.”

The researchers are optimistic that a program including telephone intervention focusing on exercise could greatly help patients who complete cardiac rehabilitation to stay on track.

“Our study shows that specific support for exercise is important if we want cardiac patients to stay active over the long-term and can easily be delivered through a telephone-based intervention,” stated Pinto. “In the absence of such support, gains in exercise that patients have achieved while participating in cardiac rehabilitation may be lost with time."

Results of the study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.