Exercise for your heart and mental health

Study finds physical and mental benefits from a cardio rehab exercise program.

New research has found that exercise is beneficial for the heart, despite age.

Research published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology has shown that all patients with cardiovascular disease can benefit through an exercise-based rehabilitation program.

More than that, it’s those with the most physical impairment who see the most benefits. Unfortunately, those people tend to be older and older people do not get referred to exercise programs by doctors often enough.

The study’s authors recommend that clinicians and patients alike begin to see the benefits of exercise.

The study

The study looked the effects of an exercise program on patients 65 years and older. All participants had some level of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The participants were 733 patients divided into three groups: younger than 65; between 65 and 80; and 80+. The patients were scored on both physical and psychological variables, including fitness, anxiety and depression, both before and after the exercise program.

The exercise undertaken was designed as a cardiac rehabilitation program, which ran for 25 sessions.


Following the exercise program, the researchers found that all patients experienced improvements in their fitness.

The study’s conclusion notes that the patients with the “greatest physical impairments at baseline would benefit the most” from the exercise program — regardless of their age.

On top of that, the participants also reported better mental health as well.

 “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,” said lead author Dr. Gaëlle Deley.

The researchers also found a link between mental health and physical performance. In younger and older participants, the more anxious or depressed they were, the more benefit they got from the exercise program.

“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,” said Dr. Deley.

“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.”


Deley, G. et al. (2019.) ‘Physical and Psychological Effectiveness of Cardiac Rehabilitation: Age Is Not a Limiting Factor.’ Canadian Journal of Cardiology. October 2019; Volume 35, Issue 10, Pages 1353–1358.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2019.05.038

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