Cardiac rehab is designed for people who have experienced a cardiac event, such as a heart attack. The program has evolved over the years from a simple monitoring for a safe return to physical activities to a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on patient education, individually tailored exercise training, modification of the risk factors and overall well-being of the cardiac patients.

Knowledge is the best defense

The program educates and encourages patients to make lifestyle adjustments with exercise prescriptions; nutrition counselling; cholesterol, hypertension and obesity management;  symptom and medication strategies;  smoking cessation; control of diabetes; and stress and anxiety reduction.

Patients in a cardiac rehab program feel safer, stronger and more confident as a result of their participation. But cardiac rehab isn’t just about making patients feel good; it produces concrete results. Evidence-based research has concluded that providing that transition back to independence greatly improves patient outcomes in both the short and long-term.

  • Benefits of cardiac rehab
  • Improves exercise tolerance and strength
  • Reduces blood fat levels
  • Improves psychological well-being
  • Improves quality of life
  • Speeds up the ability to return to work
  • Increases awareness of cardiac risk factors
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces blood glucose for diabetes

Many individuals are not aware that cardiac rehab programs are available to them for free after their heart attack. All that is required is a simple referral to a program by a doctor. The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada’s website ( is an excellent source of information as to  which hospitals and sites across Canada offer a cardiac rehab program.

Many individuals are not aware that cardiac rehab programs are available to them for free after their heart attack.

What happens upon arrival at a typical CR program?

The first meeting usually involves: a stress test, an electrocardiogram (EKG), blood pressure and oxygen level tests. These tests allow the cardiologist to prescribe the starting exercise regimen along with identifying the schedule for the individual to follow. Some programs offer an eight-week program three times a week; others offer a six month program for one day a week; and still others offer a three month plan twice a week.

During the exercise portion, individuals may be on a treadmill, or a bike which has handles for moving the arms while peddling, or be assigned to a rowing machine. During the activity, blood pressure and oxygen levels are constantly monitored and recorded. Additionally some may use a heart monitor halter which is worn for 24 to 48 hours, monitoring the heart rate and rhythm of the heart. In addition to counselling, individuals are encouraged to develop a support network amongst the other members who are attending the cardiac rehab program with them. Some programs may include special events to promote networking such as golfing and or family sessions on nutrition along with other cardiac rehab members.

Cardiac rehabilitation promotes lifestyle change. We encourage everyone to get a referral from your family doctor or a walk-in clinic, to participate in a program that offers help and hope.