Home Cardiac Exercise Program
Recovering From Surgery Or Heart Attack

Heart Health

Working Out at Home

Home Cardiac Exercise Program


General Advice
Cardiovascular Circuit
Cooling Down

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Heart Disease in Women

General Advice

If you are not participating in a cardiac rehab exercise program but would like to start exercising at home, the following is a sample plan which you can follow. Before starting:

1. ALWAYS discuss the intensity and duration of your exercise program with a physiotherapist first. This is particularly important if you have recently had heart bypass surgery, coronary angioplasty, heart failure surgery or suffered a heart attack. They may recommend waiting 2 to 6 weeks after leaving hospital before commencing this program.
2. Over time aim for 30 minutes of moderate intense activity 5 days a week. In the early stages this may only be 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Always warm up and cool down.
4. At all times you should feel comfortable and be able to speak in full sentences.
5. Do not exercise if you feel breathless, dizzy, tired or have a cold or flu.
6. Avoid exercising if you have palpitations, angina attacks or chest pain.
7. Do not have a very hot shower before or after working out.
8. Drink plenty of water.
9. You may feel safer if someone is present for your first few sessions, just in case you need help.
10. If your physiotherapist advises you to take your pulse before and after exercising, be sure to do so.

When To Stop Exercising

1. You cannot speak.
2. Feel confused.
3. Turn very pale.
4. Experience chest pain and/or fatigue (chest pain in women).
5.Feel nauseous.
6. Start sweating excessively.
7. Experience any new pain.

NOTE: Always discuss any new plan with a doctor or physiotherapist first, particularly if you do not have the support of a cardiac rehabilitation program.


Walk slowly on the spot for 3 minutes, then start walking around the house or to a local store. Walk at a casual pace for another 7 minutes. Increase the pace for the last 5 minutes as you return indoors. This is a gentle 15 minute warm-up.


Stretching will help reduce the risk of muscle injury or soreness.
You should feel a gentle stretch as you do the exercises, no pulling or pain.
Try not to bounce as you reach the end of your stretch.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds before releasing and repeat on the other side.
The stretches are used for warming-up and cooling down.

Torso Stretch
Torso Exercise
Repeat: 6-8 times, each side.
Place hands behind the head with the elbows outstretched.
Bend the body to one side, bending at the waist. Hold.
Repeat on other side.

Torso Twist
Exercises for elderly women
Repeat: 6-8 times, each side.
Place hands behind the head with the elbows outstretched.
Twist the body from the waist to one side, your head should follow the body. Hold.
Repeat on other side.

Neck Stretch
Exercises After Heart Attack
Repeat: 6-8 times, each side.
Keep your back against the chair, shoulders facing forward.
Stretch neck gently to one side and hold.
Repeat on other side.

Quadriceps Stretch
Pictures of Exercises
Repeat: 6-8 times, each side.
Start with your left side facing the wall, about 30 to 60 cm away from the wall. Place your left hand against the wall for balance.
Raise your right heel towards the buttocks and reach back and grab the foot at the heal. If you cannot reach your foot, grab your pants.
Hold. Your raised knee should be pointing towards the floor and the foot in line with the leg, not twisted to the side.
Release and repeat 6 to 8 times.
Switch and repeat on the other foot.
Always keep the standing leg slightly bent to prevent injury and avoid leaning over (stand straight up).

Hamstring Stretch
Exercising After Heart Bypass Surgery
Repeat: 6-8 times, each leg.
Start with your left side facing the wall, about 30 to 60 cm away from the wall. Place your left hand against the wall for balance.
Move your left heel in front of you and lean forward from the hip (and not the waist).
Reach toward your toes with the right hand, the toes can be pointing up or flat on the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat 6 to 8 times on one leg before switching to the opposite leg.

Calf Stretch
Activity Level After Heart Surgery
Repeat: 6-8 times, each leg.
Lean against a wall with both palms flat and your arms outstretched.
Bend one leg and place the foot of that leg in front of you. This automatically extends the other leg behind you.
Keep the knee of the extended leg slightly bent.
Keep both knees pointing forward.
Slowly move your hips forward, your weight should always be on the back heel. Hold for 10 seconds and return to starting position.
Repeat on one leg 6 to 8 times before swapping to the other side.

Useful: Different methods for monitoring how your heart is coping with exercise include taking your own pulse at the wrist or wearing a heart rate monitor. More clinical options include wearing a Holter Monitor or Event Monitor or taking an exercise stress test. For an overview see: Heart disease testing.


This is the part of the program which makes your heart and lungs work harder. This circuit can be completed once, or as you become stronger you can repeat it twice.

Stair Climbing
Duration: 1 minute
Stand in front of a step. Then step up and down with one leg for 30 seconds.
Repeat on the other side.

March On The Spot
Duration: 30 seconds
March on the spot at a comfortable pace.
To work harder hold a hand weight (or can of beans) in each hand and bend the arms at the elbows as you walk.

Standing and Sitting
Duration: 1 minute
Start by sitting on a chair. With your hands by your side, lean forward and stand up.
Lower yourself back into the seat. Repeat for 1 minute.

Duration: 30 seconds
Stand behind the chair, holding onto the back of the chair for support.
Push up and down your toes for 30 seconds.

Butterfly Movements
Duration: 1 minute
Stand with your arms by your side.
Move the right leg and arm out to the side. Then move them back to the center.
Repeat on the other side. Continue for 1 minute.

Elbow Raises
Duration: 1 minute
Stand with your arms by your side.
Bend the elbows and raise them to up to chest height. The wrists will be lower than the elbows.
Drop them down again and repeat for 1 minute.

Leg Lunges
Duration: 1 minute
Stand with your arms by your side.
Take a large step forward with your left leg. Return to start position.
Repeat with the right leg. Make sure your knee does not go beyond your toes.
Continue for 1 minute.

Arm Strengthening
Duration: 30 seconds
Stand with your arms by your side. Take a hand weight or tin of beans in each hand.
Stretch one arm out in front of you, do not bend at the elbow. Do not lift the arm higher than shoulder height. Hold for 2 seconds.
Repeat on each side and continue for 30 seconds.
Walk on the spot throughout.

Knee Raises
Duration: 1 minute
Raise the left knee and touch it with the right hand.
Repeat on the other side and continue for 60 seconds.

Ballet Exercise
Duration: 1 minute
Stand with your feet wide apart, knees bent and toes pointing out.
Keeping the bottom tucked in and back straight, straighten the legs.
Repeat for 30 seconds.

Duration: 1 minute
Stand with your legs slightly apart, back straight and knees slightly bent.
Swing your arms from left to right for 60 seconds.


After you have finished the circuit, walk around to cool down, then repeat the stretches.

Always discuss this program with a physiotherapist or your doctor. The first time you try it, practice it just once in the first week and then gradually build up to 3 to 5 times a week. Continue with your normal daily activities but incorporate this program into weekly routine.

  Related Articles on Exercising After Cardiac Complications

For more heart-health, see the following:

Living With Heart Disease / Living with Heart Failure

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