Patient Education

Cardiac Rehabilitation – Phase I

You have already started on a healthy habit! It began with walking after your heart surgery. As part of your recovery process after heart surgery, your doctor has recommended that you participate in a walking exercise program.
This part of your rehabilitation is called Phase I. Phase I begins in the hospital and will continue at home until you see your doctor. Your doctor will let you know when you and your heart are ready to tolerate a more aggressive exercise program.

Goals of the Walking Program:

  • To maintain and improve your heart’s ability to tolerate activity.
  • To maintain and increase your muscle strength.
  • To prevent joint stiffness.
  • To improve your circulation and reduce your risk of developing blood clots.
  • To reduce your risk of developing pneumonia.

General Guidelines for Exercise

Week 1: Walk 3-5 minutes continuously 3-4 times daily

Week 2: Walk 6-10 minutes continuously 3 times daily

Week 3: Walk 11-15 minutes continuously 2 times daily

Plan Exercise Time Into Your Day

  • Do not exceed a 20-minute walk without your doctor’s okay.
  • May add a few extra walks if you can tolerate it. Avoid doing too much;
    avoid fatigue. May do a little less on days you feel very tired (you still need
    to do 3 walks of fewer minutes).
  • Rest 20 minutes before and after walking.
  • Walk indoors, outside if above 32 degrees (use scarf over nose/mouth),
    in malls, gyms.
  • Walk at a pace that feels fairly easy. While you are walking, you should be able
    to talk to someone without huffing and puffing.
  • Wait at least 1 hour after a meal before you go walking.
  • You may use up to 3 lb. hand weights to strengthen upper body.

Do not use treadmills or other exercise equipment at home unless your doctor says it is okay.

Your heart beats faster when you exercise. After heart surgery, there are temporary limits as to how much exercise is okay. The following signs will tell you that you are either walking too fast, going too far, or doing too much:

  • Short of breath
  • Very tired/weak
  • Sweaty
  • Nauseated
  • Dizzy
  • Heart feels like it is beating fast

If you feel any of the above, sit down and rest until the symptoms pass. If your symptoms do not go away within 15 minutes, call your doctor.

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