Maintenance of exercise capacity and physical activity patterns 2 years after cardiac rehabilitation

J Cardiopulm Rehabil. 2005 Jan-Feb;25(1):14-21; quiz 22-3. doi: 10.1097/00008483-200501000-00004.


Background: The benefits of exercise training for postmyocardial infarction and postcoronary artery bypass surgery patients are well established, but little is known about the effects of rehabilitation in the months or years following the program. The purpose of this study was to assess exercise capacity, blood lipids, and physical activity patterns 2 years after completing a concentrated residential rehabilitation program in Switzerland.

Methods: Seventy-eight patients (86% males, mean age = 56 +/- 10, mean ejection fraction = 64% +/- 12%) were referred to a residential rehabilitation program after a myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass surgery between January 2001 and June 2001. Patients lived at the center for 1 month, during which time they underwent educational sessions, consumed a low-fat diet, and exercised 2 hours daily. Two years after completing the program, patients returned to the hospital and underwent a maximal exercise test, an assessment of recent and adulthood physical activity patterns, and evaluation of blood lipids.

Results: During the 2-year follow-up period, there were 5 deaths, and 70 of the remaining 73 patients returned for repeat testing. Mean exercise capacity increased 27% during the rehabilitation program (P < .01). Gains in exercise capacity during rehabilitation were maintained after the follow-up period; mean exercise capacity after 2 years was 34% higher compared with that at baseline (P < .01). At the 2-year evaluation, patients were expending a mean of 3127 +/- 1689 kcals/wk during recreational activities compared with 977 +/- 842 kcals/wk during adulthood prior to their cardiac event (P < .001). Between the completion of rehabilitation and the 2-year follow-up, total cholesterol, total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein ratio, and triglycerides increased significantly.

Conclusions: Two years after a cardiac event and participation in a concentrated residential rehabilitation program, patients maintained their exercise capacity and engaged in physical activities that exceed the levels recommended by guidelines for cardiovascular health. These observations suggest that a relatively intensive rehabilitation program provided a catalyst to maintain physical activity patterns and exercise tolerance in the 2 years following a cardiac event.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / rehabilitation
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / rehabilitation*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / blood
  • Myocardial Infarction / rehabilitation
  • Switzerland
  • Time


  • Blood Glucose
  • Lipids