An exercise regimen is important at any age to keep in shape and stay heart-healthy. If you start when you’re young and partake in other activities that positively affect your health, chances are high that you’ll avoid the scourge of heart disease.
What if you didn’t start early enough? Can someone who already has a heart problem, or has even had a heart attack, start a preventative exercise program? The answer is yes.
What is cardiac rehab?
Cardiac rehab is a program organized by a rehabilitation facility geared toward people who have experienced some form of heart failure or heart surgery. The program is performed on an outpatient basis and runs for about eight weeks. Each facility has its own, individual structure, but they all have these three elements:
- Participants learn how to gently incorporate vital exercises into their daily living.
- Education about a healthier lifestyle.
- Methods for reducing stress.
Each of these elements plays a crucial role in helping the patient lower his chances of further heart problems and increase the likelihood of healthier, more enjoyable living and a longer lifespan.
How to exercise for cardiac health
Since the patient has recently come off of a health scare or major surgery, simply jumping into a heavy workout routine isn’t really feasible. That’s why in a cardiac rehab program, the patient will work with doctors and exercise therapists to create a customized plan. You don’t want to set the bar too low, because at this point, you really need to maximize what the exercise can do for you – your life may depend on it. At the same time, overextending yourself won’t do you any good, either. The exercise therapist is trained to work with the physician and assess the patient’s needs and abilities, developing a specific regimen to work out the patient without overworking him.
The rehabilitation center may have an on-site gym for rehab patients to have close supervision and guided direction. Some facilities have a bridge program with a nearby fitness center or health club, so the patient can get comfortable in that setting and then simply ease into a regular membership once the rehab program ends. These clubs might even offer a discount to rehab patients to make it easier for them to continue on their healthy journey.
In addition to the benefits of the actual exercise, patients who undergo the program gain confidence and get rid of their self-consciousness about working out. After years of neglecting this essential aspect of healthy living, starting from scratch, especially at an advanced age, can be daunting. Working with the cheering squad of a team of health practitioners, from the doctor to the exercise therapist to the case manager, can help the patient to feel that he really can get into shape and take control of his life. While at the gym, he can meet like-minded friends and join a community of health-conscious people who make working out a serious part of their lives.
The goal is for the patient to see that it is indeed realistic for him to make these changes in his lifestyle. With the full support of a medically-qualified team, he’ll feel emotionally able to turn his life around.
At Sinai Post Acute Care Rehab Center, we offer a full-service cardiac rehab program with excellent cardiac care for heart patients to fully recover and learn a healthy lifestyle.