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: Monitoring Your Body's Response to Exercise

Cardiac Rehabilitation: Monitoring Your Body's Response to Exercise


There are several ways to measure your body's responses to exercise and other lifestyle changes. You may want to keep track of the following measurements during your exercise sessions at cardiac rehab and at home.

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate can guide you to how hard you need to exercise so you can get the most aerobic benefit from your workout.

At the beginning of your rehab, the staff may give you a target heart rate goal to start with. You can use your target heart rate to know how hard you need to exercise to gain the most aerobic benefit from your workout. You will probably exercise at the lower end of your target heart rate. As you progress through the phases of cardiac rehab and you stay more active, you may exercise harder (at the upper end of your target heart rate range).

Rating of perceived exertion

Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is a valuable and reliable indicator in monitoring your exercise tolerance. It is usually used as part of an organized cardiac rehab program. It is probably most useful to first learn about RPE with a health professional, such as an exercise physiologist or trainer. And then you may be able to use it when you exercise on your own. During exercise, you will want to monitor for and report any angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, to your doctor.

The RPE is a means of determining how hard you are exerting yourself, including physiological (how hard you are breathing, how fast your heart is beating) and muscular strain (how much you feel the exertion in your muscles).

Blood pressure

If you are in a supervised cardiac rehab program, your blood pressure (BP) will also be monitored in addition to HR and RPE. You may want to be aware of your BP during exercise that you do by yourself. You should expect a gradual increase in your systolic BP (the first number), while your diastolic BP (the second number) should show very little change. If this does not happen, consider any medicines you may be taking that could affect your BP and/or call your doctor.


Angina symptoms are caused by your heart muscle not getting enough blood flow (myocardial ischemia). Your angina may feel like chest pain or discomfort. But you might feel it in other parts of your body. In any case, note if increased effort leads to any symptoms that can be relieved by rest or nitroglycerin.

For some people with heart problems, angina always occurs during activity. And these people must monitor the severity of the pain or stop doing the activity. Other people with heart problems rarely or never have angina. Either way, it is important that you recognize angina and know what is usual for you.

Unless your doctor has specifically told you differently, you should stop exercising when you feel angina symptoms. Talk to your doctor about when you should call about angina symptoms. There are also medicines your doctor can suggest that you may be able to carry with you to treat your angina.

Shortness of breath

If you have difficulty breathing during exercise, your heart may be having trouble keeping up with the intensity of your exercise. This difficulty breathing or shortness of breath is called dyspnea. The dyspnea rating scale will help you identify how difficult your breathing has become.

Your level of dyspnea during exercise will vary depending upon your cardiac history and current health status. Your health professionals' recommendations for an acceptable level of dyspnea will also vary.

Dyspnea rating scale

Rating number

Amount of dyspnea


No dyspnea


Mild, noticeable


Mild, some difficulty


Moderate difficulty, but can continue


Severe difficulty, cannot continue

By monitoring your level of dyspnea, you can find out the level of exercise intensity that is most appropriate for you. Usually, you want to keep your dyspnea level during exercise lower than a level 3. Report to your doctor if and when you experience any abnormal shortness of breath.

Recording measurements

An exercise diary is an excellent way to keep track of your current aerobic level as well as identify improvement. With each note you should record the time, distance, and mode of activity. Include any additional information such as weather conditions, clothing, specific terrain, time of day, and overall feeling.

A sample exercise diary







25 minutes

Went approximately 1.5 miles. Weather was a little windy so I wore a sweater. Stayed on the footpath. Overall it felt good with no pain. I did 10 minutes of stretching when I got home.

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.

© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Cardiac Rehabilitation Cardiac Rehabilitation: Outpatient Program Cardiac Rehabilitation: Maintenance Program

<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


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

The Cigna Group Information

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

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

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


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., Cigna HealthCare of Georgia, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of South Carolina, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of Texas, 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 to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details