Sex Roles

, Volume 79, Issue 7–8, pp 489–503 | Cite as

Healing the Heart: A Qualitative Study of Challenges and Motivations to Cardiac Rehabilitation Attendance and Completion among Women and Men

  • Christina L. Dechaine
  • Joseph R. MerighiEmail author
  • Timothy C. O’Keefe
Original Article


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Given that cardiovascular rehabilitation (CR) participation is the best secondary prevention of cardiac mortality, it is important to understand the challenges and motivations people experience while taking part in rehabilitation. The present qualitative study explored the treatment experiences of 20 women and 20 men at urban and rural rehabilitation clinics in Minnesota. Participants were equally divided based on the number of CR session completed (less than or equal to 18 vs. more than 18). The study’s primary aim was to articulate similarities and differences in the CR treatment experiences by gender. Data were gathered from individual interviews and analyzed using an inductive content analysis. Findings revealed that both women and men view CR as a means to move forward from their cardiac incident and achieve good health. Women were more likely than were men to be motivated by a perceived obligation to CR staff and improved quality of life. Men, in comparison, identified their commitment to CR as a need to complete a task. The study findings can help inform the design of rehabilitation programs and strengthen patient-centered interventions to enhance participation in treatment.


Heart disorders Rehabilitation Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivation Qualitative methods 



The present projected was funded by a Minnesota Agricultural Experimental Station Fund Grant (JRM) and a J. B. Hawley Student Research Award from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology (CLD).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research, which involves human subjects, received Institutional Review Board approval prior to being conducted.

Conflict of Interest

We declare that we have no conflicts of interest in this research, financial or otherwise.

Informed Consent

All participants gave informed consent to participate in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina L. Dechaine
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joseph R. Merighi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timothy C. O’Keefe
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Community Benefit & EngagementAllina HealthMinneapolisUSA

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