Top Cardiac Rehab Exercises


Patients who suffer from heart disease, who have had a heart attack, or who have undergone heart surgery often participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program during recovery in order restore their heart health. Cardiac rehab is an important part of heart disease treatment, and it usually begins in the hospital and continues after discharge.  Some patients who are not quite ready to return home move temporarily into a skilled nursing facility where they can receive the care they need and focus on recovery, rehabilitation, and the restoration of their independence. 

Exercise is an important part of any cardiac rehabilitation program. Every patient’s treatment plan should include some combination of aerobic, strength, and stretching exercises. The list below gives a general idea of the types of exercises that cardiac therapists may prescribe, but it’s important to remember that every patient is different. If you or someone you know suffers from a heart condition, it’s crucial to seek the advice of a medical professional before beginning any exercise program.    

Aerobic exercises for cardiac rehab

Cardiovascular exercise helps increase heart efficiency, which means the heart won’t have to work as hard to do its job. The pace and duration of each exercise session will depend on the patient’s level of fitness and overall health. Aerobic exercises for heart cardiac may rehab include: 

  • Walking can burn more calories than cycling or swimming, making it a great exercise for cardiac rehab patients who are looking to lose weight in order to decrease their risk of a repeat heart attack.  Walking can be done outside or on a treadmill. 
  • Swimming helps to increase functional capacity, improve blood supply to the heart, and improve heart efficiency. It’s also easy on the joints and helps to reduce anxiety and muscular tension. 
  • Cycling is another low impact exercise that helps improve heart health.  Options range from stationary bicycles, reclining bicycles, three-wheel cycles, and cycling can be done indoors or outdoors. 
  • Stair climbing can be anywhere there are stairs! One of the great benefits of stair climbing for cardiac patients is that it can easily fit into their everyday life, while  shopping at the mall or cleaning the house. 

Strength exercises for cardiac rehab

Resistance training can help restore strength and balance after a cardiac event. It also helps to positively influence other risk factors such as metabolism and cardiovascular function. Strength exercises can also help patients perform their daily activities with confidence.  Some strength exercises for cardiac rehab may include:

  • Arm raise: Sit or stand with your arms hanging straight by your sides. Keep both arms straight as you lift them to shoulder height with palms facing downward. Let them down slowly. This can be done with or without hand weights. Repeat 8 times. 
  • Bicep curl: Hold your hand weights straight down at your sides, palms facing front. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and lift one or both arms until the weight reaches chest height. Return to starting position slowly. Repeat 8 times. 
  • Leg extension: Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg up until it’s straight and slightly raised from the chair. Keep your toes flexed and your back straight. Repeat 8 times and then switch legs. 
  • Side leg raises: Stand directly behind a straight back chair, holding onto it with both hands for balance. Raise one leg up and out to the side as high as you can while keeping your back and legs straight with toes pointed forward. Repeat 8 times and then switch legs. 

Stretch exercises for cardiac rehab

Flexibility is another important part of maintaining an active, heart-healthy lifestyle. Stretching exercises help reduce the risk of injury, and a cardiac rehabilitation program may include one or more of the following: 

  • Upper back stretch:  Lock your fingers together and stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Lower your head to look at the floor. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Chest stretch: Lock your fingers behind you and keep your arms straight. Press your shoulder blades together and lift your hands slowly.  Hold for 10-15 seconds. 
  • Calf stretch: Stand directly in front of a wall or a chair. Step back with one foot, bending the front leg and leaving the back one straight. Press the back heel into the floor to feel the stretch in the calf. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Switch legs. 
  • Hamstring stretch: Place your hands on your hips. Take a small step forward with one foot, bending the back leg and leaving the front leg straight. Bend forward at the hips and feel the stretch in the hamstring of the front leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Switch legs. 


Looking for a top-notch cardiac rehabilitation program? Call Bella Vista!

At Bella Vista Health Center, our cardiac rehab programs are customized for each patient and include a step-by-step program of medically supervised activity designed to help patients build up tolerance, restore functionality, and achieve optimal heart health.  If you or someone you love is in need of cardiac rehab, give us a call or stop by our 5-star skilled nursing facility in Lemon Grove today.  Give us a call at (619) 644-1000