Barriers and facilitators to participating in cardiac rehabilitation and physical activity: A cross-sectional survey

Matthew James Fraser, Stephen J Leslie, Trish Gorely, Emma Foster, Ronie Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have been shown to be the greatest cause of death worldwide and rates continue to increase. It is recommended that CVD patients attend cardiac rehabilitation (CR) following a cardiac event to reduce mortality, improve recovery and positively influence behaviour around CVD risk factors. Despite the recognised benefits and international recommendations for exercise-based CR, uptake and attendance remain suboptimal. A greater understanding of CR barriers and facilitators is required, not least to inform service development. Through understanding current cardiac patients’ attitudes and opinions around CR and physical activity (PA) could inform patient-led improvements. Moreover, through understanding aspects of CR and PA that participants like/dislike could provide healthcare providers and policy makers with information around what elements to target in the future.
To investigate participants’ attitudes and opinions around CR and PA.
This study employed a cross-sectional survey design on 567 cardiac patients. Cardiac patients who were referred for standard CR classes at a hospital in the Scottish Highlands, from May 2016 to May 2017 were sampled. As part of a larger survey, the current study analysed the free-text responses to 5 open-ended questions included within the wider survey. Questions were related to the participants’ experience of CR, reasons for non-attendance, ideas to increase attendance and their opinions on PA. Qualitative data were analysed using a 6-step, reflexive thematic analysis.
Two main topic areas were explored: “Cardiac rehabilitation experience” and “physical activity”. Self-efficacy was increased as a result of attending CR due to exercising with similar individuals and the safe environment offered. Barriers ranged from age and health to distance and starting times of the classes which increased travel time and costs. Moreover, responses demonstrated a lack of information and communication around the classes. Respondents highlighted that the provision of more classes and classes being held out with working hours, in addition to a greater variety would increase attendance. In terms of PA, respondents viewed this as different to the CR experience. Responses demonstrated increased freedom when conducting PA with regards to the location, time and type of exercise conducted.

Changes to the structure of CR may prove important in creating long term behaviour change after completing the rehabilitation programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalWorld Journal of Cardiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2022


  • cardiac rehabilitation
  • barriers
  • facilitators
  • qualitative research
  • physical activity


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