ORLANDO -- Increasing fitness, not merely enrolling in an exercise program, appears to help men live longer following a heart attack, the first long-term follow-up study of participants in the National Exercise and Heart Disease Project (NEHDP) has shown.
Results of the research were presented here today (March 24, 1999) at the 39th Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention by Joan Dorn, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The NEHDP was a three-year, multi-center, randomized, clinical trial conducted in the U.S. from 1976-79 to determine if participation in a structured exercise program improved long-term survival of men who had suffered a heart attack. John P. Naughton, M.D., UB professor of medicine and former dean of the UB medical school, directed the initial study.
Twenty years ago, prescribing exercise after a heart attack was considered risky because the prevailing wisdom called for rest. The NEHDP was designed to answer the exercise-or-no-exercise question. Dorn completed the follow-up analysis in 1998.
"If you just compare the men who were assigned to an exercise program with men who weren't, there was no difference in long-term survival at the 19-year follow-up," Dorn said. "But the men who improved their fitness during the three-year study did live longer, and the most likely way to improve fitness is through exercise."
The explanation for this finding probably is due to contamination
between study groups, Dorn said. The men were assigned randomly to a structured
exercise group or to a control group whose members were told to maintain their
normal routines and not to take part in a regular exercise program during the
trial. However, by the end of two years, 23 percent of the members of the
exercise group reported they had stopped exercising,
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo