In our modern societies of convenience and luxury, and the overwhelming majority of human societies today are exceedingly convenient and luxurious in comparison to the hunter-gatherer existence of our ancestors, it is the case that most people do not exercise to the degree needed to maintain function with advancing age. If exercise is seen to produce benefits in near all patients of any later age, and it is, that is the case because those patients are not maintaining themselves sufficiently.
Elderly patients are at a higher risk for complications and accelerated physical deconditioning after a cardiovascular event, yet older patients are largely underrepresented in rehabilitation programs. Studies have shown that this might be due to a lack of referral and encouragement to attend cardiac rehabilitation in older patients. Several studies have looked at the effects of cardiac rehabilitation in older adults. However, these data often focus on patients above the age of 65 with no distinction between old and very old patients and examine either physical or psychological outcomes but not both.
The goal of this study was to compare the effects of an exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation program on physical and psychological parameters in young, old, and very old patients. It also aimed to identify the features that best predicted cardiac rehabilitation outcome. Investigators examined 733 patients who completed a 25-session cardiac rehabilitation program. They were divided into three subgroups: less than 65 years old; between 65 and 80 years old; and 80 years or older. Physical and psychological variables such as scores of anxiety and depression were evaluated for all patients before and after cardiac rehabilitation.
Following the intervention, all patients experienced improvements. "We found a few weeks of exercise training not only significantly improved exercise capacity, but also decreased anxiety and depression. Patients with the greatest physical impairments at baseline benefited the most from exercise. Another interesting result was that patients younger than 65 who were very anxious before rehabilitation benefited the most from exercise training. A similar result was found for depressed patients older than 65. These improvements will surely have a great positive impact on patients' independence and quality of life and might help both clinicians and patients to realize how beneficial exercise rehabilitation can be."