Heart Disease and Cardiac Rehabilitation

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 05, 2021

If you have heart disease, your doctor may encourage you to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program, which is designed to help you exercise safely and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. The program typically includes a tailored exercise program, education, and support in making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and adopting a healthier diet. Cardiac rehab programs also offer support groups to help you stay on track to maintain a healthier heart.

What Types of Exercises Are Included in a Cardiac Rehab Program?

Your cardiac rehab program may include exercises like cycling on a stationary bike, using a treadmill, low-impact aerobics, and swimming.

Who Benefits From Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab may benefit you if you have:

How Will I Benefit From Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab offers many benefits. It can improve your ability to carry out activities of daily living, reduce your heart disease risk factors, improve your quality of life, improve your outlook and emotional stability, and increase your ability to manage your disease.

How Do You Pick a Cardiac Rehab Program?

The best cardiac rehabilitation programs are multidisciplinary, with doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists, psychologists, and dietitians either on the premises or in direct contact with the program staff. A good program will study each person's needs and design a program just for them.

Consider these points when choosing a rehab program:

  • A doctor's referral is required to enter the program.
  • Your referring doctor should receive regular progress reports.
  • A doctor-supervised stress test is frequently required before entering the program to identify risks of an exercise program and to design activity guidelines. You should be informed of their risks and benefits.
  • Check the availability of education and counseling services for your family members and/or caregivers. They can be of great benefit to those close to you.
  • The staff should tailor an individualized treatment plan for you based on identified risks.
  • A doctor should be nearby or have direct contact with staff during your exercise sessions.
  • The staff should be specially trained and/or certified in the field of cardiac rehab and in their specialty area. All staff members should have current certification in basic cardiac life support, and at least one person with advanced cardiac life support certification should be present at each exercise session.
  • Check out emergency procedures, such as readily available emergency equipment and supplies.
  • Make sure to discuss fees and insurance coverage.


For a complete listing of cardiac rehabilitation programs, visit the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program Directory at www.aacvpr.org.