For the 720 000 Americans expected to experience a new acute cardiac event this year, cardiac rehabilitation is an important part of recovery. Symptoms of depression and anxiety undermine recovery efforts, leaving recovering patients at risk for diminished functional capacity and heightened risk of mortality. Poor emotion regulation can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety and hinder recovery efforts.
The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the early efficacy testing of a theoretically based emotion regulation treatment (Regulating Emotions to Improve Self-management of Nutrition, Exercise, and Stress [RENEwS]) designed to assist survivors of an acute cardiac event in cardiac rehabilitation to optimize recovery.
Survivors of an acute cardiac event in cardiac rehabilitation (n = 30, 83% men) were randomized to five 1-hour in-person group sessions of RENEwS or a phone-based attention-control group. Participants completed measures of depression and anxiety symptoms at 3 time points. Moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was objectively measured for 7 days at each time point using waist-worn actigraphy monitors. Between-group differences were calculated using analysis of variance with Cohen f effect sizes calculated to evaluate initial efficacy.
There was no statistically significant difference in depression, anxiety, or MVPA over time based on group assignment (all P > .05). Compared with attention control participants, in RENEwS participants, preliminary effects showed greater reductions in depression (Cohen f = 0.34) and anxiety (Cohen f = 0.40) symptoms but only modest improvements in MVPA from baseline to 5 months (Cohen f = 0.08).
Findings show that RENEwS is a promising emotion regulation intervention to enhance cardiac rehabilitation and potentially decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.