Purpose: Less than 50% of persons who participate in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs maintain an exercise regimen for as long as 6 months after completion. This study was conducted to identify factors that predict women's exercise following completion of a CR program.
Methods: In this prospective, descriptive study, a convenience sample of 60 women were recruited at completion of a phase II CR program. Exercise was measured using a heart rate wristwatch monitor over 3 months. Predictor variables collected at the time of the subjects' enrollment were age, body mass index, cardiac functional status, comorbidity, muscle or joint pain, motivation, mood state, social support, self-efficacy, perceived benefits or barriers, and prior exercise.
Results: Of women, 25% did not exercise at all following completion of a CR program and only 48% of the subjects were exercising at 3 months. Different predictors were found of the various dimensions of exercise maintenance. Predictors of exercise frequency were comorbidity and instrumental social support. Instrumental social support was the only predictor of exercise persistence. Comorbidity was the only predictor of exercise intensity. The only predictor of the total amount of exercise was benefits or barriers.
Conclusions: Interventions aimed at increasing women's exercise should focus on increasing their problem-solving abilities to reduce barriers to exercise and increase social support by family and friends. Because comorbidity was a significant predictor of exercise, women should be encouraged to use exercise techniques that reduce impact on muscles and joints (eg, swimming) or exercising for short periods several times a day.