Cardiac rehabilitation

A cardiac programme of three phases to aid recovery

Providing long-term recovery from cardiac conditions and surgery

What is cardiac rehabilitation?

Cardiac rehabilitation focuses on long-term recovery and well-being through exercise, lifestyle management, education and risk modification for patients with established heart disease or those at risk of it, taking into account family history and other factors.

Our Cardiac Rehabilitation Team provides Phase I and Phase II cardiac rehabilitation, which covers the post-surgical stay in hospital and the early discharge period.

We can refer all patients who have had cardiac surgery, coronary intervention or a heart attack for Phase III rehabilitation, a structured support programme lasting several weeks, to either NHS or private services.

Who is cardiac rehabilitation for?

The aim of cardiac rehabilitation is to address the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease, help people with heart conditions improve their physical and mental health, and reduce the likelihood of heart problems in the future. Cardiac rehabilitation may be recommended if you have (or have had) any of the following:

Cardiac rehabilitation can benefit you in many ways. If you are living with a heart condition or recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, cardiac rehab can help you:

  • Understand your condition better: by learning about potential triggers for heart problems, such as stress
  • Make positive lifestyle changes and live more healthily: this may include eating healthily, giving up smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Reduce the chance of a relapse or subsequent heart attack: by adopting a healthier lifestyle and teaching you how to control your activity levels
  • Gradually increase your exercise level to improve your overall health: this should be undertaken under the supervision of your cardiac care team
  • Improve your quality of life: by improving your health, emotional wellbeing and reducing the chance of illness in the future

Cardiac rehabilitation can also be a valuable source of support for emotional and psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, which many people experience after being diagnosed with a heart condition or after having a heart attack.

Although you may be nervous about starting a cardiac rehabilitation programme, there is nothing to worry about. Your cardiac care team will be able to offer you advice and support about anything that might be worrying you, and you will have the opportunity to meet other people in a similar position to yourself. 

Phases of cardiac rehabilitation

  • Phase I Rehabilitation icon plus

    Cardiac rehabilitation is often referred to as stage I, II or III. Stage I usually refers to hospital-based care, stage II refers to the period following discharge and stage III refers to longer-term rehabilitation.

    Stage I cardiac rehab (also known as the ‘acute’ phase) usually takes place in hospital. You may be eligible if you have had heart surgery or a heart attack. At this stage, your cardiac care team will:

    • Assess your health and mobility to determine what level of support you require
    • Provide education about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (these include not exercising regularly, drinking alcohol, smoking and stress)
    • Offer advice about following a heart-healthy diet which is rich is fruit and vegetables, and low in fat
    • Set a basic exercise programme to help you return to health (this will be determined by your physical fitness and what type of procedure you have had. If you have had a heart attack, the severity of the attack and the damage to you heart will be taken into account)
    • Teach you how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in future

    Phase I cardiac rehab usually lasts for as long as you are in hospital. This can range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of surgery you have had, the extent of the damage to your heart and how well you are recovering.

  • Phase II Rehabilitation icon plus

    Stage II cardiac rehab (also known as the ‘subacute’ or ‘outpatient’ phase) will begin after you are discharged from hospital. It usually takes place at a dedicated outpatient facility, or in some cases a member of your cardiac care team may visit you in your own home. During stage II cardiac rehab, your cardiac care team will:

    • Continue to monitor how you respond to exercise and activity
    • Teach you more about appropriate exercise as you continue in your recovery, including how to monitor your own heart rate during activity

    The aim of stage II cardiac rehabilitation is to make you more independent and help you to manage your own recovery. 

    Stage II cardiac rehabilitation usually lasts between 3 and 6 weeks.

  • Phase III Rehabilitation icon plus

    Stage III cardiac rehab (also known as the ‘maintenance’ phase) involves ongoing monitoring of your progress and exercise programme. By stage III, most people are able to monitor their own heart rate during activity and may be able to increase their exercise level. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you about appropriate activity levels, according to how well you are recovering. This may include a combination of exercises to improve your strength and flexibility, and aerobic exercises to improve the function of your heart.

    It’s important to keep in touch with your cardiac care team, and don’t change your exercise programme without checking with your doctor first.

    Phase III cardiac rehabilitation is an ongoing process. In order to keep your heart healthy, you will need to adopt healthy habits - including regular exercise if you are able - and maintain them for the rest of your life. 

    At HCA UK, we have excellent Phase I and Phase II cardiac rehabilitation programmes available. If you are looking for longer-term support with cardiac rehabilitation, then we can refer you to an appropriate NHS or private clinic for your ongoing care.


In the majority of cases, exercise and rehabilitation are good for your heart, however it’s important to listen to your doctor’s advice and not push yourself too hard. Your cardiac care team will develop a safe exercise programme for you which you should follow closely.

Your doctor and cardiac care team will decide whether cardiac rehab is suitable for you, depending on factors including your heart condition, your physical health, and your medical history. Cardiac rehab is not suitable for everybody, so make sure you follow your doctor’s advice.  

In rare cases, exercise during cardiac rehab can cause injury, or can aggravate existing heart problems. If you experience any of the following symptoms during your cardiac rehab, then tell your doctor or nurse immediately, or call emergency services.

  • An irregular heartbeat or frequent skipped beats
  • Feeling weak
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Nausea / sickness
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle cramps
  • Breathing problems
  • Excessive sweating that is unusual for you
  • Any other symptoms which are unusual or worrying

It is extremely rare for people to experience negative effects from cardiac rehabilitation. Most people with heart conditions will benefit from taking part in a cardiac rehab programme.

If you are receiving cardiac rehabilitation at a HCA UK facility, then your cardiac care team will assess your suitability and regularly monitor your progress, to make sure that your cardiac program meets your needs and is appropriate for your physical capabilities. Our expert cardiac rehabilitation team includes experienced cardiac consultants, cardiac rehabilitation sisters, cardiac nurses, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, occupational therapists, dietitians, and pharmacists, who are on-hand to ensure that you receive the highest standard of care.

Undertaking cardiac rehabilitation

  • Before starting cardiac rehabilitation icon plus

    If you have a heart condition such as coronary artery disease, or have recently had heart surgery or a coronary intervention (such as having a stent fitted), then you may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation. Your doctor or a member of your cardiac care team will be able to tell you whether you may be eligible. 

    If you are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation and you would like to participate in a programme, then:

    • Your doctor, cardiologist or a member of your cardiac care team will refer you to a suitable cardiac rehabilitation programme
    • A full assessment will be carried out, to determine your abilities and set the goals for your cardiac rehab (which will relate to your exercise programme, diet and long-term care) 

    If you have had heart surgery (such as a coronary artery bypass, an angioplasty or a stent fitted), then the first stage of your cardiac rehabilitation will usually take place in hospital. 

    If you have been diagnosed with a heart problem such as angina or coronary artery disease, then you will be referred for cardiac rehabilitation at an outpatient facility.

    At HCA UK, we offer a comprehensive cardiac rehab service which covers your post-surgical stay in hospital (this may range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of surgery you have had), as well as the first weeks following your discharge. If you require ongoing support with cardiac rehab following your recovery, then we can refer you to the NHS or a private service for longer-term care. 

  • During cardiac rehabilitation icon plus

    If you have had a cardiac procedure, heart attack or diagnosis of cardiac illness, then cardiac rehabilitation will help you to get back to a normal life, live more healthily and feel more confident. At HCA UK, our experienced cardiac rehabilitation team includes:

    • Specialists in cardiac rehabilitation who will carry out a full assessment of your needs
    • Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists, who will devise a personalised rehabilitation programme for you, taking into account your specific circumstances and abilities
    • Dietitians, who will advise you about eating a heart-healthy diet (rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, and low in fat)

    Your cardiac rehabilitation programme will involve:

    Physical activity: your physical activity programme will be personalised according to your abilities and goals and supervised by medical professionals. For most people, cardiac rehab involves gentle exercise (such as walking on a treadmill, using an exercise bike or basic circuit training), to help you build up strength and return to fitness. All exercises will be carried out in a controlled environment, and your heart rate will be monitored regularly. This will help you and your rehab team to find an exercise level that is right for you

    Lifestyle coaching and advice: this is your opportunity to ask professionals (such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dietitians) about anything that is worrying you. They can provide helpful advice about following a healthy diet, giving up smoking, reducing your alcohol intake and exercising safely

    Therapy and support: it’s quite normal to feel anxious or depressed after a heart attack or if you are diagnosed with a heart condition. Part of your cardiac rehabilitation will involve support with emotional issues from our team of trained psychologists, who specialise in mental health linked to physical wellbeing

    At HCAUK, our cardiac rehabilitation services are provided in our exceptional facilities, where you will have access to the best cardiac care specialists in the field.

  • After cardiac rehabilitation icon plus

    If you have experienced a heart attack, been diagnosed with a heart condition, or had heart surgery, then it’s quite normal to feel worried or anxious. Cardiac rehabilitation can help you rebuild your physical strength, learn how to live safely with a heart condition and improve your emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

    Cardiac rehabilitation will help you to develop - and maintain - healthy living habits, including: 

    • Getting regular exercise 
    • Eating a healthy diet
    • Giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol intake
    • Managing your stress levels 

    At HCA UK, we offer a range of supportive services which can help your recovery even after your cardiac rehabilitation programme ends. These include:

    • Nutritionists to support with maintaining a heart-healthy diet
    • Physiotherapy services to help you manage any physical limitations you may have
    • Occupational therapists, who can help you overcome challenges posed by day-to-day tasks
    • Psychologists who are experienced in helping people recover from illness and manage the emotional side of cardiac rehabilitation

Our locations

From complex cardiothoracic surgery to straightforward heart tests and diagnostic procedures, we provide exceptional care and rehabilitation across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request a cardiac appointment

If heart symptoms are affecting your quality of life, we’re here to help. Our heart team is available to book an appointment with a cardiac specialist.

Call us today

020 7616 4988
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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