Background: Despite participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program, there is a downward trajectory of exercise participation during the year following a cardiac event.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of CHANGE (Change Habits by Applying New Goals and Experiences), a lifestyle modification program designed to increase exercise maintenance in the year following a cardiac rehabilitation program. The CHANGE intervention consists of 5 small-group cognitive-behavioral change counseling sessions in which participants are taught self-efficacy enhancement, problem-solving skills, and relapse prevention strategies to address exercise maintenance problems.
Method: Participants (N = 250) were randomly assigned to the CHANGE intervention (supplemental to usual care) or a usual-care-only group. Exercise was measured using portable wristwatch heart rate monitors worn during exercise for 1 year. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to determine differences in exercise over the study year between the study groups.
Results: Participants in the usual-care group were 76% more likely than those in the CHANGE group to stop exercising during the year following a cardiac rehabilitation program (hazard ratio = 1.76, 95% confidence interval = 1.08-2.86, p = .02) when adjusting for the significant covariates race, gender, comorbidity, muscle and joint pain, and baseline motivation. Most participants, however, had less than recommended levels of exercise amount and intensity.
Conclusions: Counseling interventions that use contemporary behavior change strategies, such as the CHANGE intervention, can reduce the number of individuals who do not exercise following cardiac events.