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  1. Mirman, Alex M. BA
  2. Nardoni, Nolan R. MD
  3. Chen, Alessandra Y. MD
  4. Horwich, Tamara B. MD, MS


Purpose: Intensive cardiac rehabilitation (CR) was recently approved by Medicare and includes more hours and more focus on nutrition, stress management, and group support than a traditional, exercise-focused CR. The purpose of this study was to compare changes in body composition and cardiovascular (CV) risk factors after intensive versus traditional CR programs in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).


Methods: We studied 715 patients with CAD who completed a traditional versus intensive CR program at UCLA Medical Center between 2014 and 2018. Markers of CV health, including body composition using bioelectrical impedance analysis, were assessed pre- and post-program participation.


Results: In both types of CR programs, body mass index, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels (total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) were significantly lower post- compared with pre-program. Exercise capacity was increased in both groups. Intensive CR patients had greater reductions in body mass index, body fat percentage, visceral adipose tissue, and diastolic blood pressure. Traditional CR patients demonstrated greater increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and estimated lean mass.


Conclusions: In patients with CAD, both traditional and intensive CR programs led to improvements in CV risk factors, though the magnitude of the effects of the program differed between the programs. Further studies, including studies analyzing CV outcomes, are needed to help determine optimal CR program choice for CAD patients based on their risk factor and body composition profile.