Background: Current theories of human health behaviors suggest that clients' preferences for specific aspects of a health regimen are an important influence on their decisions to initiate and continue use of the regimen. Despite low rates of participation in cardiac rehabilitation programs, especially among women, little research has been done to determine patient preferences for features of cardiac rehabilitation programs. The purpose of this study was to identify and compare women's and men's preferences for specific cardiac rehabilitation program features.
Methods: Using a descriptive survey design, a convenience sample of 65 individuals (33 men and 32 women) participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program completed a self-administered survey in which they indicated both the importance of each of 17 cardiac rehabilitation program features and the extent to which they had experienced each of the features.
Results: Convenience factors (drive time, transportation, noninterference with other life activities, and ease of learning the exercises) were well-met preferences for both women and men. Men's and women's preferences were not well met for being able to discuss their progress with professionals and the ability to choose their own exercises. Men indicated that the ability to set their own goals was their greatest unmet preference. Women's preferences for not having pain and not tiring while exercising were significantly less well met than those of men.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that a cardiac rehabilitation program that is responsive to client preferences should emphasize joint goal setting with participants and discussion of progress, offer frequent encouragement from professionals, and provide a range of exercise choices. Attention to women's concerns about pain and fatigue while exercising should also be addressed in the program.