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Cardiac Rehab Exercises: How To Do Them (Safely) At Home
by Tigress Tigress | April 01, 2022 | Treatment | 2 comments

Cardiac rehab exercises – to do at home – often give people a lot of trepidation. It’s natural.

When you’re done with cardiac surgery and rehab at the hospital, and it becomes time to continue your cardiac rehabilitation at home, many worries may beset you.

Moreover, if you are a patient with other ailments like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, or cholesterol – or you have a family history of heart disease – the chances of future heart attacks get multiplicative.

This article should help palliate your worries with good knowledge – and get you started with the right home-based cardiac rehab exercises. But always consult your doctor before beginning.

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation, also called cardiac rehab, is a regimen of heart care designed to help you improve your health if you’re recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery.

Your doctor will usually recommend a combination of exercises, emotional support, diet, and education about lifestyle changes, to reduce your risk of future heart problems and improve your overall health and life quality.

While the exercises to do at home are one part of cardiac rehab, they must be accompanied by other measures too – like quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

What are the 3 phases of cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab usually covers these 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 starts when a recovering heart patient is still in the hospital. Rehabilitation exercises and regimens are prescribed and supervised by experts at the hospital.
  • In Phase 2, when the recovering heart patient is discharged from the hospital, cardiac rehab usually involves outpatient care.
  • In Phase 3, recovering patients are deemed well enough to continue the cardiac rehab exercises and regimens on their own at home.

What are the risks of cardiac rehab at home?

There are the normal risks of overdoing exercises to the detriment of your heart.

But, if you are not habituated to exercise, and are only starting it all after you’ve suffered some heart problems, you have the extra risk of inadvertent injury with sprains and strains.

Before you leave the hospital, get an expert to teach you techniques to avoid injuries when you exercise on your own.

4 ways cardiac rehab at home can improve your life

There are four huge benefits to cardiac rehab at home:

1. Physically, your body will grow stronger

Most cardiac rehab home-based programs include light aerobic activity. Good breathing during exercise will strengthen the body, along with toning the muscles and improving blood circulation.

2. Mentally, your self-confidence will grow

Heart attacks or heart surgeries often don’t just affect the heart. They also wear down your self-confidence. Cardiac rehab can help you recover your sense of well-being. When you are able to sustain a healthy exercising habit, it restores your confidence in yourself day by day.

3. Nutritionally, you begin to eat what’s good

During cardiac rehab at home, it’s important to not do just the exercises but to also follow a heart-healthy diet as your doctor has prescribed. Eating well also adds to your sense of being self-caring.

4. Support-wise, you can build your own network

If you’ve come into contact with other cardiac patients like yourself in the hospital, you could all become an online support group for one another after you begin home-based cardiac rehab. You can be cheerleaders interested in mutual encouragement.

How do you prepare for home-based cardiac rehab?

If you’ve been given a specific home-based cardiac rehab program to follow by your doctor, be sure to follow that program diligently for as long as the doctor says you must.

After you’ve completed the set program given to you, you can begin to follow some of the top follow-up programs like the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation have put together for recovered heart patients to follow.

These could become your ongoing programs to keep your health and avoid the risks of heart setbacks again.

Read on for more about these two programs …

The American Heart Association (AHA) Cardiac Rehab Program

What does the AHA cardiac rehab at-home program contain?

For Strength and Balance:  There are 9 simple exercises in this series including Arm Raises, Triceps Extension, Walking Heel-To-Toe, Leg Extensions, Side Leg Raises, Plantar Flexing, Hamstring Curls, Standing on One Foot, and Bicep Curls.

To see how exactly to do these exercises, look up the AHA’s Strength and Balance Exercises Page. From the representative images below (from their site), you’ll notice most of these are easy to perform.

 

Strength & Balance Exercises

(Images courtesy: American Heart Association)

 

For Stretching and Flexibility: There are 7 simple exercises in this series including Torso Stretch, Torso Twist, Neck Stretch, Seated March, Quadriceps Stretch, Hamstring Stretch, and Calf Stretch.

To see how exactly to do these exercises, look up the AHA’s Stretching and Flexibility Exercises Page. Again, the representative images below (from their site) show you these exercises too are easy to do.

Stretching Flexibility Excercise

(Images courtesy: American Heart Association

 

A special tip to help you do these AHA exercises better

Since these programs are available as text on a web page, you may like to read out the instructions and record yourself doing so. You will then find it easy to follow instructions by listening to your recording as you work out.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cardiac Rehab Programme

What does the BHF cardiac rehab at-home programme contain?

The BHF at-home cardiac rehab programme begins with an absolutely-must-see introductory video that explains the contents of the programme. It is available on their dedicated webpage as well as on YouTube … and embedded here for your benefit:

(Video courtesy: British Heart Foundation)

The BHF Programme has 6 levels of exercise, ranging from a seated programme up to a level 5 programme, with gradually increasing intensity of the exercise. All of these are available in the form of videos.

Some special advice from BHF

To ensure you are exercising at a level that is comfortable and safe for you, the BHF has a Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale in their free downloadable ebook titled “My Personal Trainer: Your step-by step-guide”. You can also sign up for their 8-week email support programme that contains loads of tips and emotional support.

Common FAQs cardiac rehab patients ask – and their quick answers

1. How do I start cardiac rehab at home after a stent?

In addition to at-home cardiac rehab exercises after a stent, most cardiac specialists say walking increases your fitness levels, helps control blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol, and keeps you relaxed.

2. How do I start cardiac rehab at home after bypass surgery?

Since you’ve been through surgery, you’ll be taking pain medications. It’s never a good idea to exercise against the pain or to have to increase pain medications just because the exercise makes things more painful. Start very gradually.

3. Why is physiotherapy so important to cardiac rehab?

During cardiac rehab exercises beware of exacerbating any non-cardiac conditions such as arthritis, back pain, joint replacements, or respiratory problems. At the first signs of discomfort consult your doctor, and ask if you need the advice or help of a physiotherapist.

In summary…

Knowing what cardiac rehab exercises entail, and knowing how to do them safely, are the keys to doing them without fear and to great benefit.

Monitoring your progress at home and through regular doctor visits is imperative to keep away future risk. Networking with other home-based cardiac rehab patients keeps you motivated. Helping others helps increase your own enthusiasm.

Treat your heart responsibly. Happy recovery!

 

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