(HealthDay News) — Exercising at home can reduce feelings of hopelessness in people with coronary heart disease, but in-hospital workouts don’t provide the same benefit, according to a new study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA), held from November 15–19 in Chicago.

The new research included 324 people, average age 66, with coronary heart disease. One-third of the study volunteers were women, and 93% were white. Their feelings of hopelessness were first assessed while they were still in the hospital. Twenty-four percent of the patients had current feelings of hopelessness, 28% had long-term feelings of hopelessness, and 30% had both types.

The researchers found that, a year later, those who walked or bicycled at home at least three days a week had a 12% reduction in feelings of hopelessness. The researchers said they were surprised to learn that hospital-based exercise didn’t improve patients’ hopelessness levels. They suggested that the initiative required to exercise at home may have boosted patients’ sense of having control over their health.

“For the first time, we show the beneficial effect of exercise in helping patients to feel more hopeful. With home exercise, patients are likely thinking more positively about the future and feeling more capable of making positive changes for a healthy lifestyle,” study lead author Susan Dunn, PhD, RN, a professor of nursing at Hope College in Holland, MI, said in an AHA news release. “All patients should be encouraged to participate in a regular exercise program,” she said. “Special encouragement is needed for patients who are moderately to severely hopeless, as they may be the most vulnerable and the least likely to exercise, yet benefit the most.”

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