Enhancing the uptake and acceptability of cardiac rehabilitation for women

Years funded:

Every year over 55,000 Australians have a heart attack and are recommended to attend cardiac rehabilitation (CR) to help avoid a repeat event and premature death. Around 25% of these are female. However only about one in three heart patients attend CR, with women less likely than men to attend.

Heart patients rely heavily on the advice of their cardiologists and other health professionals, and many health professionals and patients alike believe that CR is more appropriate for men than women due to the perception that heart disease is more of a 'male' disease and because of the emphasis on moderate to high intensity exercise in many CR programs. 

In order to address some of women's barriers to CR attendance, and health professionals’ resistance to referral of women to CR, we will develop a women-only CR program which will incorporate 'female-friendly' low intensity exercises. A recent study demonstrated that yoga, for example, is as effective as exercise for improving cardiovascular risk.

We will pilot test the women-only CR program at Monash health over a six month period. In order to facilitate referral of women to the program, we will involve the CR and cardiology staff at Monash Health by informing them about the importance of the women-only program in addressing women’s barriers to attendance at traditional CR. 

In order to assess the appeal of the program to women, we will compare uptake rates of the women-only program to uptake rates of the general CR program offered at Monash Health during the previous year. We will also use validated measures to assess women's acceptability of the program and changes in exercise-related confidence after CR attendance.

We will also interview participating CR staff and cardiologists at Monash Health to investigate their perceptions on the appeal and acceptability of the women-only CR program.

If shown to be acceptable and effective, the women-only CR with female-friendly exercises could be offered nation-wide.

Researcher Profile

Dr Barbara Murphy

Institute: Australian Centre for Heart Health
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