Home Exercise: Help for Hopelessness in Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease patients felt better when they exercised regularly at home

(RxWiki News) What can improve heart disease patients' mood and outlook? A new study suggests that exercising at home could help the emotional health status of these patients.

Regular at-home exercise may combat feelings of hopelessness in coronary heart disease patients, the authors of the new study found.

The researchers said patients with coronary heart disease should speak to their doctors about starting a safe home exercise program.

Coronary heart disease is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Many people with heart disease feel hopeless, said Daniel Berarducci, MA, CPC, of Person-Holistic Innovations in Las Vegas.

“With individuals who have experienced a significant medical concern, such as coronary heart disease, these individuals may begin to feel a sense of hopelessness in relationship to their thoughts and feelings of a lack of control about their health concerns,” he told dailyRx News.

This study was written by Susan L. Dunn, PhD, of Hope College in Holland, MI, and colleagues.

The authors studied 324 people with coronary heart disease. The average age of those in the study was 66. The patients were asked to complete a survey to assess how they felt at the start of the study.

The study authors found that 24 percent of the patients said they felt hopeless at the beginning of the study. Twenty-eight percent reported feeling hopeless over a long period of time. Thirty percent of the patients reported feeling hopeless both at the time of the first survey and over a long period of time.

Dr. Dunn and team also asked the patients to answer questions about their exercise habits. Some exercised at home. Others took part in hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation exercise.

The researchers encouraged the patients to exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes each time. About one-third of the patients followed the advice, Dr. Dunn told dailyRx News. After one year, the patients filled out the survey again.

Among patients who reported feeling hopeless at the time of the first survey, those who started walking or biking at least three times a week when they were at home were 12 percent less likely to report hopelessness at the end of the year than they were on the first survey.

However, those with long-term feelings of hopelessness did not report an improved outlook from exercising. Also, patients who exercised at the hospital did not report any change in how they felt.

​“An unanticipated finding was that home-based exercise had a significant impact on decreasing hopelessness, whereas hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation exercise did not, “ Dr. Dunn told dailyRx News. “This could be explained by the independent nature of home exercise leading a patient to feel more capable of making positive lifestyle changes.”

Dr. Berarducci said exercise is good for people with heart disease all around.

“When an individual is able to move in directions of improving their physical health, within the mental health profession, the ability to have internal control will often allow the individual to feel a sense of accomplishment and esteem to improving their health,” he said. “Along with the combined hormonal effects of exercising, these two aspects will allow an individual to move past their sense of hopelessness within their health."

This research was presented Nov. 18 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Kappa Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 17, 2014