Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Health education helps increase physical activity among people with heart disease

Zhu L, Ho S, Wong TK  Effectiveness of health education programs on exercise behavior among patients with heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis  J Evid Based Med.  2013; 6: 265-301.

Review question

Can health education programs change exercise behaviour among individuals with heart disease?


Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Regular exercise can benefit people with heart disease but many people find it challenging to do.  Health education can help encourage people to exercise more and may motivate people with heart disease to boost their physical activity.

How the review was done

This is a summary of 37 randomized controlled trials. The studies included 10 066 adults with heart disease. The average age of participants ranged from 53 to 79 years.

Participants took part in health education programs promoting exercise and physical activity.  These programs included teaching, counseling and behavior modification through face-to-face, telephone or printed materials. Other types of education programs such as online education were not included. The programs ranged in length from a few days (for patients in hospital) to 3 years; most were about 5 months long. The studies measured any change in participants’ exercise behaviour such as how often they exercised and for how long.

What the researchers found

In general, health education programs help motivate people with heart disease to exercise.  The programs helped to increase how long (minutes/week) and how often (sessions/week) participants spent exercising.  However, participants did not keep up these changes after the education programs ended and the programs did not appear to increase participants’ total energy output each week (eg. calories burned).   Because most studies relied on participants remembering and reporting their own exercise habits, future studies should also track exercise levels using monitors (such as pedometers).


Health education programs promoting exercise and physical activity help to motivate people with heart disease to exercise, but people may not continue after the programs end.



Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.

Related Web Resources

  • Coronary artery disease risk screening

    Health Link B.C.
    Men over 40 and women past menopause or over 50 should get screened for coronary artery disease (CAD) every 1 to 3 years. Your risk is higher if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, kidney disease, family history of CAD or if you smoke.
  • High cholesterol: Does reducing the amount of fat in your diet help?

    Informed Health Online
    Eat less saturated fats in your diet to help prevent heart disease. Eat less meat, butter, cheese and cream to improve your health long-term.
  • Statins: Should I Take Them to Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke?

    This patient decision aid helps people considering taking medicines called statins to lower their risk of heart attack and stroke by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options. It also includes alternative treatment options to taking statins such as trying to lower risk with lifestyle changes.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use