Cardiac Rehab Experts Share Why Exercise is Important

Cardiac Rehab Benefits

Cardiac rehab exercise
Photo by: Anna Shvets


Cardiac Rehab and exercise is an essential component of recovery when you have a heart condition. We also know that the benefits of cardiac rehab and regular exercise are clear, a 26% reduction in dying of a cardiovascular condition and 18% reduced hospital admissions (
1). Yet half of patients invited still don’t attend (3), with many stating that they didn’t feel confident and many were unaware of the benefits.

In this post, we have put together some tips for people who haven’t attended cardiac rehab or have finished a program and are unsure what to do next.

We have selected 7 top cardiac rehab trainers from UK to give their tips for those attending cardiac rehab programs or thinking about joining a local exercise class.

1. Angela Hartley of Healthy Hearties

After a heart attack, surgery, or diagnosis, everyone reacts differently and needs different tools for success. Cardiac rehab can help people to move on and have a more fun and fulfilling life.

Angela says “Often people think exercise will hurt, damage their heart or they will not be able to do it correctly. Fear not! There are some simple and easy ways to get back into exercise.”

Top tips to healing

Join a cardiac rehab support group

This may be your local NHS cardiac rehab or a local exercise class. If you are looking for cardiac rehab classes near you, you may search at Cardiac Rehab Org or you could also join the Healthy Hearties Facebook group. Talking to others who have been through what you have can be reassuring. You can learn from others, join in the chats or learn from afar. Having a support group can improve your confidence, form new friendships, and motivate you to exercise!

Learn and research

The more you know about your condition, the more you can help improve your quality of life. Understanding that diet and exercise can improve your quality of life means you’re more likely to be motivated to keep up those changes. Learn by asking your cardiac rehab instructor questions, researching, and learning from others. You are much more likely to stick to a program if you know why it is good for you!

Take one step at a time

Start slowly. You’ll soon be doing much more after a few weeks. With guidance from your cardiac rehab instructor, you can add more workouts. Find out what you enjoy, set some goals, and make workout a habit. Many of my cardiac rehab clients are working out more than they did before. Moreover, others returned to road cycling, and one has even completed a marathon!

Angela Hartley Cardiac rehab nurse

About Angela
Angela runs Healthy Hearties, a Facebook group that offers support and advice about exercise and nutrition. She also runs online programs over Zoom and does private exercise sessions in East Molesey, Surrey. Check out her programmes HERE. Contact Angela HERE for more information.

2. Toby Whitehead of Bounceback

As a cardiac rehab exercise expert, part of Toby’s job is to help people find exercise worth it. The reward might be feeling fitter, having fun, and being committed to their cardiac rehab programs. After all, regular exercise at the right intensity is the key.

Top tips to healing

Toby says “In the 10 years I have been an instructor, I have found that cardiac rehab programs are a brilliant way to combine the benefits of exercise in a fun and social group. Many of my members say things like ‘I’m not a gym person’ or ‘I wouldn’t exercise if it wasn’t for the group’. These are the same people that love group exercise and attend three times a week. I think it really shows that cardiac rehab makes a big difference.”

Over the years, members in Toby’s cardiac rehab programs have helped each other overcome their condition. Together, they have also raised money for different heart charities and sponsored events.

He also adds “People know they’ll always be greeted with a friendly face and an understanding of what it feels like to have had a heart problem. They are invested in the group, both for their physical benefit and the friends they will make. My top tip is, if you’re not a gym person, find a cardiac rehab group to exercise with and get fit at the same time.”

Cardiac rehab group exercise
Photo by rawpixel.com


About Toby
Toby is currently a Senior Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Physiologist at East Surrey Hospital. He also set up Bounceback,
cardiac rehab exercise classes. Bounceback also has a popular support group, which you can get involved in! Visit their website for more information.

3. The Clinical Team of Ten Health & Fitness

Pilates has exploded in the fitness scene and it would appear that it is here to stay. Its potential seems limitless: improved posture, endurance, breathing, core strength, and mindfulness.

The Clinical Team from Ten Health & Fitness says “Pilates is built around the principles of lean muscle development and functional movement with the added element of breath control. It is interestingly not far from a traditional cardiac rehabilitation program. While the link between Pilates and those with a cardiac history is in its early stages, a few studies have been now been reported and the results are good.”

Cardiac rehab pilates
Photo by Jessica Monte

Studies about Pilates

Research was conducted with patients with NYHA class I or II heart failure in Brazil. One group completed 30 minutes of cardio followed by 20 minutes of Pilates. The control group, on the other hand, followed a usual cardiac rehab program. The first group showed a boost in exercise time, VO2max, and peak oxygen consumption versus the other group.

Another 16-week study published in the International Journal of Cardiology showed that two 60-minute sessions a week reduced the blood pressure of a group of over 55s taking anti-hypertensive medication to a greater extent than a group who undertook the usual program. An initial study into the effects of integrated Pilates based rehabilitation program on patients post CABG is also looking good. Mr Pilates was on to something after all!

Top tip to healing

It would seem as though Pilates can benefit those with a cardiac condition! Our top tip is to give it a go!

About Ten Health & Fitness
Ten Health & Fitness has branches in London and offers one on one cardiac rehab sessions. They do cardiovascular, resistance exercise, and Pilates. Their sessions are designed around proven principles to help cardiac rehab clients improve their quality of life. Visit their website for more information.

4. Elaine Roles of Heart Rehabilitation Exercise

Elderly smiling
Photo by Jixiao Huang


Elaine regards cardiac rehab to be a vital decision you will ever make after a cardiac event.  She states “It can become the basis of how you view and live your life. It will lift the limits you may have placed on yourself,  positively affect your relations, and help you feel good.”

She asked her cardiac rehab members what they think helped them the most when they started (she still has some who have attended for 17 years.) They said  “Comfort, laughter, less pressure, new friends, learning how to exercise safely, and feeling safe. Elaine adds “One of the members wanted to know he could safely return to his usual running routine.”

Top tips to healing

  1. You are not alone
  2. You can lose the fear
  3. Take your time. It doesn’t matter where your starting point is!
  4. Learning to relax
  5. Helps you set realistic goals
  6. Learning to laugh again

About Elaine
Elaine Roles has worked in fitness since 1987. She currently runs cardiac rehab classes in Sidcup Kent and has a gym based at Birchwood Park Golf Centre in Wilmington, Kent. Visit
their website for more information.

5. Laura Correia of LC4Health Ltd

As a cardiac rehab specialist, Laura found that listening helps her patients. Suffering a heart attack and/or undergoing surgery can be a scary experience.

Laura says “Our main role as a cardiac rehabilitation expert is educate our patients and support them. Those who experienced a heart attack will face various challenges. Hence, listening and making referrals are two of my main priorities.”

Top tips to healing

  1. Take your time
  2. Enjoy the process
  3. When in doubt, ask! 
  4. Make friends with your cardiac rehab group 
  5. Tell us more about your journey 
  6. Stay positive while exercising

Laura Correia, a cardiac rehab specialist

About Laura
Laura is a qualified BACPR Cardiac Exercise Instructor with a Masters in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation. After working for the NHS for many years, she now offers both one-to-one sessions and phase 4 Cardiac Rehab classes in Hull and East Riding. 

6. Jacquie Donoghue of Jacquie D Fitness 

Top tips to healing

  1. Find a cardiac rehab program you think you will enjoy.
  2. Contact the trainer prior if you have any questions or concerns.
  3. Give your cardiac rehab program a few weeks before deciding if it’s for you. It can take 4 to 8 weeks to get to know the workouts, the trainer, the people, and create a routine.
  4. After 6 to 8 weeks, you’ll be ready to do more. Ask the trainer for more info about other activities that would suit you.
  5. You are more likely to stick to a new routine if you exercise with others and tell what you’ve done to a friend (a good instructor will be happy to be that person!)
  6. To stay driven, keep a diary. Record the type and length of workouts, and record progress in your physical and mental health.
  7. Don’t be sad when you don’t exercise as much. Just get back to your routine again and keep going!

Woman exercising at home

Jacquie runs regular Cardiac Rehabilitation classes in Laurencekirk and Stonehaven, Scotland. Visit jacquiedfitness.co.uk or gcra.org.uk for more information.

Neville Lewis of Body Heart and Mind

Recovery and getting back is different for each person. Neville points out that “I believe it’s helpful to explain at the start that exercise does not always need to be like the usual gym workout.”

Top tips to healing

Neville always thinks about where the person’s starting point is and takes into consideration where they are in relation to strength, fitness, flexibility, and balance. Neville says “This starting point ideally would be determined by a health expert conducting an assessment. I also encourage self-assessment. For example, a walk from home to the shop may have felt a little challenging, but the person did not need stop. This could be the initial exercise to be completed on a regular basis to gauge progression for the future.”

Listen to your body

How you feel while moving is also important. Neville encourages patients to measure how their body feels  when they are moving. For example, when they are walking and doing household chores. Neville adds “Start with a low intensity then make steady progression.  Keep all movements comfortable and don’t aim to get out of breath. Often with consistency, it is easier to gain maximum benefits.”

Old person trying to walk

About Neville
Neville works
for an NHS Trust running a cardiac rehabilitation service. He also runs his own business – Body Heart and Mind – seeing people for private cardiac rehab in London and has enjoyed doing this for a long time. Visit their website or more information.

References:

  1. Anderson L, Oldridge N, Thompson DR et al (2016) Exercise-Based Cardiac Rehabilitation for Coronary Heart Disease: Cochrane Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Coll Cardiol. Jan 5;67(1):1-12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109715071193?via%3Dihub
  2. Shields GE, Wells A, Doherty P, et al (2018)Cost-effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation: a systematic review. Heart. https://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2018/04/13/heartjnl-2017-312809
  3. British Heart Foundation (BHF). (2016). The National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation Annual Statistical Report 2016. Accessed 1 November from www.cardiacrehabilitation.org.uk/docs/BHF_NACR_Report_2016.pdf

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