PURPOSE: Research describing whether stress management can improve clinical outcomes for patients in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) has yielded equivocal findings.
METHODS: The present investigation retrospectively examined the incremental impact of exercise and stress management (n = 188), relative to exercise only (n = 1389), on psychosocial and physical health outcomes following a 12-week CR program.
RESULTS: Participation in stress management and exercise was associated with greater reductions in waist circumference and systolic blood pressure, relative to exercise alone, for patients with baseline clinical elevations on these measures. The stress management group had more depressive symptoms (as measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; t = 3.81, P < .001) and lower physical quality of life (as measured by the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey Physical Component; t = 3.00, P = .003) than the exercise-only group at baseline, but there were no differences between the groups at 12 weeks in terms of depressive symptoms (t = 1.74, P = .082) or physical quality of life (t = 1.56, P = .120).
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that stress management may offer additional benefits in selected patients over and above exercise in CR.