A new study suggests that men may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation (CR) more than women, which could indicate the need for modified exercise and counseling programs. The research, published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, compared metabolic equivalents (METs) achieved by 346 women and 758 men assigned to participate in the Health Care Cardiac Rehabilitation Program of the University of North Carolina. This program is an outpatient CR program consisting of three CR sessions a week for 3 months.
The authors of the study measured METs in participants 1 week before beginning CR as well as 1 week before completion. The research team found that men achieved MET improvement 27% greater than women, even when adjusted for body mass index (BMI) and referral indication, according to a news release from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). However, some of the difference can be accounted for by a higher rate of non-completion among women; specifically, 65.6% of the women completed the program compared with 73.1% of the men.
The authors describe this difference as “not particularly large” and “unlikely to account for the…improvement.”
The APTA news release notes that according to the article, the sex-based difference may indicate that more attention needs to be paid to structuring exercise programs that are more responsive to the “unique barriers” to exercise encountered by women, which include “a social stigma against overexertion” and a high rate of comorbidities that can make it harder to participate in exercise programs.
The authors of the study also suggest that more targeted counseling could help, citing specific studies that show women experience higher levels of depression following a cardiac event.