Heart failure patients who face few exercise barriers and have high levels of social support spend more time exercising.

“Similar to how pharmacists can help patients break down barriers to medication compliance (with medication reminders and blister packs, for example), this study shows that clinicians must help patients work to alleviate barriers to exercise training programs,” study author Lauren Cooper, MD, told Pharmacy Times.

Dr. Cooper and her fellow researchers from the Duke Clinical Research Institute observed 2279 patients enrolled in a heart failure exercise training study in order to examine the link between social support and barriers to exercise and adherence to exercise programs.

The participants were asked to complete surveys to assess the types of support they received and their barriers to exercise, including finances, weather, transportation, and childcare. These reports were measured as perceived social support scores and barriers to exercise scores.

As hypothesized, the researchers found that as levels of support increased for patients without barriers to exercise, the participants exercised more compared with patients who had lower support levels and more barriers to exercise.

Perceived social support scores did not impact the effect of exercise training on outcomes, according to the study authors. However, exercise did have an impact among patients with lower barriers to exercise scores in terms of cardiovascular death and heart failure hospitalization.

“Given that exercise training improves outcomes in heart failure patients, assessment of perceived barriers may facilitate individualized approaches to implement exercise training therapy in clinical practice,” the researchers concluded.

These findings were published in Circulation Heart Failure