Virtual oversight keeps patients motivated

Heart patients who participate in cardiac rehab programs typically do well during enrollment but tend to revert to unhealthy lifestyles once the formal gym-based regimens end.

Finding a way to sustain patients’ lifestyle improvements after supervised cardiac rehab has ended was the focus of a small pilot study led by Duke Health researchers.  DMPI faculty member Bill Kraus and exercise physiologist Brian Dusha helped devise a 12 week follow-up program called mHealth that used wearable fitness trackers and call-in sessions with a health coach.

Following rehab, those participants in the mHealth intervention not only sustained their fitness levels, but actually continued to increase peak fitness (although not statistically significant due to the small study size). “The mHealth group only decreased their moderate level exercise by 16 minutes per week, while the usual care group fell off by 113 minutes per week,” Duscha said. “This has important public health implications, because maintenance of physical activity and physical fitness are inversely associated with cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.”

Watch a video about the study.