Riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill, and resistance training (working with weights) are types of exercise you may do during cardiac rehabilitation (rehab).
You will likely do aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises. During recovery and then rehab, your exercise program will be specifically designed for you. It might progress from a supervised program monitored by an exercise physiologist or other qualified professional to an independent, self-managed program.
You will be taught to check how hard you are working when you exercise. You will be taught to check your heart rate or your exercise level known as a rating of perceived exertion (RPE). It is important to keep your heart rate from getting too high. Your doctor will tell you how fast your heart rate should be with exercise. Self-monitoring is often used during the last stage of a rehab program, when you continue your cardiac rehab on your own without close supervision.
What are the benefits?
Everyone can benefit from exercise. But if you are recovering from a heart attack or have other heart disease, the benefits of exercise will be even greater than for most people. Cardiac rehab programs are designed to restore and help you keep your physical function. Whether your goal is to return to work as soon as possible, live a more active lifestyle, or achieve a level of independence to increase the quality of your life, exercise must be a regular part of your routine.
You can benefit from exercise whether you exercise at a high intensity for just a short time or at a low intensity for a longer period of time. If, for example, you are a person who finds exercising difficult, you still can obtain the benefits of regular exercise simply by walking.
Exercise can also improve your quality of life, endurance, and muscle strength. After a few months of exercise in a cardiac rehab program, you can increase your ability to exercise. Your daily activities (such as carrying groceries) will be easier to do. You may also have an improved sense of wellness, because exercise can help alleviate depression, stress, and anxiety.
Your heart is a muscle with fibers that allow it to contract and pump blood. Like other muscles in your body, your heart will respond to exercise. When a muscle is used during exercise, the fibers inside it become stronger and more efficient. Increasing your heart rate during aerobic exercise not only strengthens the heart itself but also helps more blood circulate through your body. Blood contains oxygen and nutrients that increase the health and efficiency of many of your body's important systems.
Other benefits of aerobic exercise
There are many other physical and mental benefits of aerobic exercise for cardiac rehab.
Increases aerobic ability (the ability of your body to use oxygen)
Increases lung volume and the lungs' ability to take in oxygen
Reduces the demands on your heart both at rest and during exercise