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Cardiac Rehabilitation Phase III: Outpatient Program - Topic Overview

Phase III of cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is the initial outpatient cardiac rehab program.

The goal is to lower your risk of future heart problems.

You will take part in a supervised exercise program.

You will receive information and tools to make lifestyle changes, such as:

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

Your rate of recovery depends on age, gender, and other health conditions. Depending on your condition and how you respond to rehab, you may stay in a particular phase or move back and forth among the various phases. There is no set length of time that you must stay in a specific phase.

If a person has been in the hospital, phase III typically follows phase II, which helps the transition from the hospital to home. But some people might enter phase III right after they leave the hospital.

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, usually in a hospital rehab facility. This exercise includes stretching, aerobic exercise, and an introduction to strength training.

Your exercise goals are to:

  • Have more aerobic capacity.
  • Get stronger.
  • Learn how to monitor your own heart rate and rate your activity level.
  • Learn stretching and strength exercises.

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.

  • You will most likely exercise (walking, stationary bike riding, arm exercises) 3 to 5 times a week for 15 to 60 minutes each time, based on your condition. Your heart rate will be checked to be sure it doesn't get too high. As you progress, you will learn to check your own heart rate and rhythm.
  • You may have a follow-up exercise stress electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) during this phase to see how your heart is tolerating exercise.

Stretching and flexibility

Make stretching part of your warm-up and cooldown every time you exercise. The benefits from an increase in flexibility are numerous. And as part of your lifetime physical maintenance program, stretching will help increase the length of time that you can continue to be active. 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:

  • Frequency: at least 3 days a week
  • Intensity: stretching to a position of mild discomfort
  • Duration: 10 to 30 seconds for each stretch
  • Repetition: 3 to 5 for each stretch
  • Type: control and hold without resistance, emphasis on lower back and legs
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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