Cardiac rehab - the first step to a more active life

9th July 2018

This article is taken from our April issue of My Life magazine. You can read the whole magazine here, or to subscribe to receive a free copy via email or post please sign up here.

Following a diagnosis of heart failure, participating in cardiac rehab is one of the best things you can do for your heart health, say Lucy Girdler-Heald (Heart Failure Nurse Specialist) and Claire Gray (Cardiac Rehabilitation – Assistant Practitioner)

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a supervised programme that helps improve the health and well-being of people with heart problems. It includes exercise training, healthy living information and support to reduce stress and help people return to an active life.

Cardiac rehabilitation programmes will help you to:

  • Understand your condition.
  • Make changes to your lifestyle that will help improve your heart health.
  • Reduce the risk of further heart problems.
  • Help to regain confidence, test abilities and learn what is achievable in a safe environment.
  • Enable you to take control of your condition and feel positive.
  • Programmes are fun, relaxed and enjoyable.

The programme usually involves going to several sessions, each lasting an hour or two, either once or twice a week. Some programmes may have shorter or longer sessions and vary in the number of weeks.

At the beginning of your programme you may be invited to an assessment appointment with a cardiac rehab specialist. You can agree a programme of goals and activities that are best for you.

Programmes are usually run in a hospital, or in a community or leisure centre.

Cardiac rehab programmes usually include one or more of the following:

  • Physical activity - structured physical activity is an important part of your rehabilitation. It will help with your recovery, boost your confidence, improve your fitness, strength and general wellbeing. You will be encouraged to start slowly and gently and to increase your exercise gradually over the programme working within your limitations. Even a small amount of activity can be helpful in regaining your confidence.
  • Education - on healthy lifestyle choices, such as sticking to a healthy diet and how to take your medicines.
  • Relaxation - some programmes teach you different relaxation techniques so you can find one that suits you. This can help in reducing and managing stress levels.
  • Psychological support.

After you have finished your programme, it is important that you continue on with regular physical activity and a healthy lifestyle in the long term. This may be your own exercise that you enjoy, or cardiac rehab staff can refer you to exercise classes that are run in leisure centres with specially-trained instructors who can help you.

Go to to find out where your nearest cardiac rehabilitation programme is.