Background: Functional capacity is a prognostic factor for coronary patients; accordingly, they are recommended to walk.
Objective: To assess whether an exercise program supervised in primary care increases their functional capacity more than unsupervised walking.
Methods: A randomized clinical trial was carried out at eight primary care centres of the Spanish Health Service and involving 97 incident cases of low-risk acute coronary patients, <80 years old, randomly assigned to either an unsupervised walking program (UW group; n = 51) or a 6-month cycle ergometer exercise program with gradually increasing frequency and workload intensity supervised by primary care nurses (SE group; n = 46). The two groups received the same common components of secondary prevention care. Changes in functional capacity were assessed in terms of peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) during exercise testing measured at baseline and at 7 months by cardiologists blinded to group assignment.
Results: Overall, 76% of participants completed the study, 30 in the SE and 44 in the UW. Both groups increased baseline-adjusted VO2peak: 5.56ml/kg per minute in the SE (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.38-7.74) and 1.64ml/kg per minute in the UW (95% CI -0.15 to 3.45). The multivariate-adjusted difference between groups was 4.30ml/kg per minute (95% CI 1.82-6.79; P = 0.001) when analyzing completers and 2.83ml/kg per minute (95% CI 0.61-5.05; P = 0.01) in the intention-to-treat analysis, including all participants with baseline values carried forward for those lost to follow-up.
Conclusions: A cycle ergometer exercise program supervised by primary care nurses increased the functional capacity of coronary patients more than unsupervised walking with a clinically relevant difference.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146315.
Keywords: Coronary disease; exercise capacity; exercise training; myocardial infarction; primary health care; prognosis.