The benefits of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) are well-established, but men may be benefitting more than women, according to a new study that suggests the differences in improvement may point to a need for modified exercise and counseling programs.
The research, published in the July-August issue of the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention (abstract only available for free), compared metabolic equivalents (METs) achieved by 346 women and 758 men assigned to participate in the University of North Carolina's Health Care Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, an outpatient CR program consisting of 3 CR sessions a week for 3 months. Authors of the article measured METs in participants 1 week before beginning CR, and 1 week before completion.
What researchers found was that men achieved MET improvement 27% greater than women, even when adjusted for BMI and referral indication. Although some of the difference can be accounted for by a higher rate of noncompletion among women—65.6% of the women completed the program, compared with 73.1% of the men—authors describe the difference as "not particularly large" and "unlikely to account for the … improvement."
According to the article, the sex-based difference may indicate that more attention needs to be paid to structuring exercise programs that are more responsive to the "unique barriers" to exercise encountered by women, which include "a social stigma against overexertion" and a high rate of comorbidities that can make it harder to participate in exercise programs. Authors also suggest that more targeted counseling could help, citing studies that show women experience higher levels of depression after a cardiac event.
Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.
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