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Cardiac Rehabilitation: Outpatient Program

Table of Contents


Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) typically includes an outpatient program. This program is one part, or phase, of your cardiac rehab.

You will likely take part in a supervised exercise program.

You will receive information and tools to have a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as:

You may also receive vocational rehab so you can return to work safely and sooner.

Supervised exercise program

Discuss any additional physical limitations or medical issues with your doctor before you start any exercise program.

The frequency and duration of rehab sessions for each week will vary depending upon the structure of your personal program. Your exercises may vary depending on your medical history, clinical status, and symptoms, and whether you had heart surgery.

You will exercise regularly in a rehab facility. This exercise includes stretching, aerobic exercise, and an introduction to strength training.

You will likely have exercise goals. These could be to:

Your progress will be monitored by several rehab staff members. While you exercise, a health professional tracks your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and symptoms.

Stretching and flexibility

Make stretching part of your warm-up and cooldown every time you exercise. Enjoy the feeling of relaxation as you stretch. As you do each exercise in a slow and controlled manner, focus on your breathing and become more aware of your body's range of motion and positioning.

An example program:1

Aerobic exercise

An outpatient program includes a carefully monitored aerobic program that involves one or more types of exercise. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, and record how hard you exercise. Use your target heart rate (THR) or rating of perceived exertion (RPE).

You will exercise within a specific heart rate range. Over time, your staff may ask you to work harder when you exercise.

Sometimes exercise may cause angina (such as chest pain or discomfort). It is important to know when you reach an exercise intensity that causes angina and to exercise below that threshold. So note your heart rate intensity at any signs of chest discomfort or pain, and tell your doctor and the staff who is supervising your exercise. Your team may suggest that you use a heart rate monitor to accurately record your heart rate and exercise below the heart rate when symptoms happen.

This aerobic exercise program includes walking, swimming, or biking. An example program:1

Strength training

Strength training has been shown to be very effective with cardiac patients for improving muscular strength and endurance as well as help in improving coronary risk factors. It also decreases the cardiac demands of daily activities such as lifting and increases your endurance capacity for other activities.

Do not start a strength-training program without discussing it with your doctor.

When you are strength-training, be sure to follow recommendations for correct technique, breathing, and appropriate intensity.

Strength training can include the use of hand weights and machines. An example program:1



  1. Exercise prescription for individuals with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases (2021). In Liguori G., ed., ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 11th ed., pp. 68-73. Wolters Kluwer Health. Accessed November 2, 2021.

Credits for Cardiac Rehabilitation: Outpatient Program

Current as of: June 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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