What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation is a programme of exercise and information sessions to help you get back on your feet again after a heart attack, heart surgery or procedure.

There are commonly two phases of cardiac rehabilitation that take place once you have been discharged from hospital and undergone your initial recovery period, these are ‘Phase 3’ and ‘Phase 4’.

Phase 3 generally focusses on education, behaviour and lifestyle changes with a focus on exercise-based activities to support your continued recovery. Phase 4 concentrates on ways in which you can sustain these behavioural and lifestyle changes whilst continuing to exercise and live a healthy life.


How could cardiac rehabilitation benefit me?

Cardiac rehabilitation is proven to be beneficial in many ways including:

  • Reducing the risk of future heart events
  • Aiding recovery and a return to previous life activities
  • Regaining confidence
  • Setting long term goals
  • Providing the opportunity to ask questions and reduce anxiety


What should I expect?

Your Phase 3 cardiac rehabilitation programme will generally start between four and six weeks after you leave hospital. These tend to be supervised exercise programmes with both cardiac rehabilitation nurses and specialist exercise instructors. Services may vary depending on your location but typically they will include:

  • Physical activity
  • Education on healthy lifestyles
  • Relaxation
  • Psychological support
  • Signposting to smoking cessation
  • Advice on medication
  • Peer support from people who have experienced a similar event


It is usual for Phase 3 rehabilitation classes to run for between 6-12 weeks depending on your location and level of fitness/mobility and they are held primarily in hospitals, community centres and leisure complexes. Whilst on the programme you will be encouraged to work at your own pace, to start slowly and gently and to increase your exercise gradually over the course of the 6-12 weeks.



What happens next?

To be effective, physical activity and lifestyle changes need to be maintained for life. For this reason, following on from Phase 3 cardiac rehabilitation you will be invited to join an ongoing community-based exercise programme known as Phase 4.

Individuals who have participated in Phase 3 rehabilitation and those with certain medical criteria who have been assessed by their GP can access a wide range of Phase 4 cardiac rehabilitation groups. These classes are usually run by a trained/volunteer instructor and are typically an extension of Phase 3 rehabilitation activities including a programme of exercise, peer support and in some cases additional education sessions.


Top Tips!

It is important that you find the right class/group for you. Many people enjoy exercising with people who have had similar experiences and there is often a strong sense of camaraderie and friendship amongst group members.

Some groups also have a social aspect to them, organising additional activities from walks to annual Christmas dinners.  

Take a look at our map to find your local group.