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    Cardiac Rehabilitation Phase III: Outpatient Program - Topic Overview

    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

    Aerobic exercise

    Phase III rehab 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) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE).

    You will exercise within a specific heart rate range. Over time, your staff will probably 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. It is suggested that you use heart rate monitors to accurately record your heart rate and exercise 10 to 15 beats per minute (bpm) below the known threshold.

    Example program


    Aerobic (walking, swimming, biking)


    • RPE: 11 to 13 (light to somewhat hard)
    • Heart rate: within your target heart rate range
    • 30 bpm above resting heart rate (RHR)


    15 to 60 minutes


    Minimum of 3 to 5 times a week


    • Increase HR
    • Change mode
    • Increase duration and endurance (gradually)

    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.

    Example program


    Strength training (hand weights, machines)


    • RPE: 11 to 13 (light to somewhat hard)
    • No straining
    • No pain
    • 1 to 10 pounds


    • 10 to 12 reps for each set
    • 1 to 2 sets for each exercise


    • 2 to 3 days a week
    • Add following aerobic exercise


    • Increase resistance.
    • Reduce rest period between sets.
    • Add more exercises.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    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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