Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Cardiac Rehabilitation: Outpatient Program

Cardiac Rehabilitation: Outpatient Program

Overview

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) typically includes an outpatient program. This program is one part, or phase, of your cardiac rehab.

You will likely take part in a supervised exercise program.

You will receive information and tools to have a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as:

  • Not smoking.
  • Healthy eating.
  • Staying at a healthy weight or losing weight if you need to.
  • Being active.
  • Managing stress.
  • Taking your medicines.
  • Managing other health problems.

You may also receive vocational rehab so you can return to work safely and sooner.

Supervised exercise program

Discuss any additional physical limitations or medical issues with your doctor before you start any exercise program.

The frequency and duration of rehab sessions for each week will vary depending upon the structure of your personal program. Your exercises may vary depending on your medical history, clinical status, and symptoms, and whether you had heart surgery.

You will exercise regularly in a rehab facility. This exercise includes stretching, aerobic exercise, and an introduction to strength training.

You will likely have exercise goals. These could be to:

  • Have more aerobic capacity.
  • Get stronger.
  • Learn how to monitor your own heart rate and rate your activity level.
  • Learn stretching and strength exercises.
  • Return to your recreational activities.

Your progress will be monitored by several rehab staff members. While you exercise, a health professional tracks your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and symptoms.

  • Your heart rate will be checked to be sure it doesn't get too high. As you progress, you will learn to check your own heart rate and rhythm.
  • You may have a follow-up exercise stress electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) during this phase to see how your heart is tolerating exercise.

Stretching and flexibility

Make stretching part of your warm-up and cooldown every time you exercise. 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: footnote 1

  • How often: at least 2 or 3 days a week
  • Intensity: stretching to a position of mild discomfort
  • How long: 10 to 30 seconds for each stretch
  • Repetition: 4 or more for each stretch
  • Type: control and hold without resistance, emphasis on lower back and legs

Aerobic exercise

An outpatient program 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) or rating of perceived exertion (RPE).

You will exercise within a specific heart rate range. Over time, your staff may 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. Your team may suggest that you use a heart rate monitor to accurately record your heart rate and exercise below the heart rate when symptoms happen.

This aerobic exercise program includes walking, swimming, or biking. An example program: footnote 1

  • How often: 3 to 5 times a week
  • Intensity: Heart rate: within your target heart rate range
  • How long: 20 to 60 minutes
  • Progression: Increase duration 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.

Strength training can include the use of hand weights and machines. An example program: footnote 1

  • How often
    • 2 to 3 days a week
  • Intensity
    • No straining
    • No pain
  • How much
    • 10 to 15 reps for each set
    • 1 to 3 sets for each exercise
  • Progression
    • Increase resistance
References

References

Citations

  1. Exercise prescription for individuals with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases (2021). In Liguori G., ed., ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 11th ed., pp. 68-73. Wolters Kluwer Health. https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781975150228. Accessed November 2, 2021.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Cardiac Rehabilitation Cardiac Rehabilitation: Monitoring Your Body's Response to Exercise Cardiac Rehabilitation: Weight and Resistance Training

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details