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Only 16 per cent of heart attack survivors get the recommended amount of physical activity in the weeks after hospitalisation, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Current guidelines strongly recommend that ACS patients get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, at least five days per week in the first two weeks after hospital discharge. In this study, the researchers measured the amount and intensity of physical activity with a wearable activity monitor in 620 heart attack survivors. Participants were instructed to wear the device for 10 hours, or more, at least three days per week during the first month after hospitalisation.

Only 16 per cent of heart attack survivors get the recommended amount of physical activity in the weeks after hospitalisation

“Despite current evidence to the contrary, many ACS patients fear that straining their heart through exertion will cause chest pain or another heart attack,” said Ian M. Kronish, MD, MPH, Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUMC, assistant professor of medicine in Columbia’s Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and lead author of the paper. Clinician-supervised exercise programs for heart attack survivors have been shown to counteract patients’ fears and encourage more physical activity. However, participation in these programs remains poor.

“Researchers and clinicians need to find ways of getting more people to participate in such supervised exercise programs,” Dr. Kronish said.“Nowadays, there are several consumer products that can be used to track physical activity at home. Perhaps the future holds ways to remotely monitor patients and to provide positive feedback and counselling outside of a hospital setting.” The paper is titled, “Objectively Measured Adherence to Physical Activity Guidelines after Acute Coronary Syndrome.”