What are the benefits of a cardiac rehabilitation program?

There are many benefits to a cardiac rehabilitation program. A quality program can decrease your risk of:
  • hospitalization
  • depression
  • disability
  • stroke
  • death from cardiac-related causes
Other ways cardiac rehabilitation might benefit you are:
  • helps you stick to your medication schedule
  • allows you to better understand the drugs you have been prescribed
  • improves your quality of life
  • helps you recover better after a heart health issue or event, such as a heart attack or heart surgery
  • decreases pain from your illness or surgery
  • may reduce your need to use medication to treat pain, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
The benefits of cardiac rehabilitation extend beyond your heart, says the NHLBI. For instance, cardiac rehab can:
  • lower stress levels
  • help you maintain or increase your independence
  • address any emotional health issues
This content originally appeared on
Brian Sutton , NASM Expert
Sports Medicine
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program for individuals with heart problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and obesity. Cardiac rehabilitation programs include exercise training, education on healthy living habits and nutrition, and counseling to reduce stress.
The benefits of a cardiac rehabilitation program include:
  • Reduce your risk of dying from heart related problems
  • Reduce risk of future heart problems
  • Reduce risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke
  • Improve overall health
  • Increase quality of life
  • Reduce stress
The risks of a cardiac rehabilitation program are very low. Individuals who have severe heart disease might not be ready for exercise. However, they can still benefit from other parts of the cardiac rehabilitation program until they are ready for physical activity.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Cardiac rehabilitation programs have been shown to reduce deaths by up to 25% during the few years following a heart attack or procedure. That's at least as good as taking aspirin, a beta blocker, a statin, or a combination of these. Participating in rehab can also improve your quality of life. For one thing, you'll have peace of mind when you exercise, knowing that you'll be closely monitored for any potential problems. Some people also enjoy the shared camaraderie of working out with people who understand what they've been through. Others benefit from group sessions or classes (whether focused on nutrition or relaxation), where they're able to ask questions and learn from one another. Some rehab programs also offer support groups for family members, who may benefit from personal sharing, as well.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you go into cardiac rehab immediately after a heart attack, you'll slash your risk of a repeat heart attack in half. Go into intensive cardiac rehab and your heart attack risk falls by 90%. Bottom line: Everyone, no matter what their heart-health issue, lives a longer, healthier, and more productive life.
Participating in cardiac rehab can help you:
  • Reduce fear and anxiety
  • Recover faster
  • Improve fitness
  • Decrease symptoms
  • Improve confidence
  • Make lifelong changes
  • Reduce risk of further heart problems
Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) has many benefits. It can:
  • Reduce your overall risk of dying, the risk of future heart problems, and the risk of dying from a heart attack Decrease pain and the need for medicines to treat heart or chest pain Lessen the chance that you'll have to go back to the hospital or emergency room for a heart problem Improve your overall health by reducing your risk factors for heart problems Improve your quality of life and make it easier for you to work, participate in social activities, and exercise
  • People who attend cardiac rehab on a regular basis also reduce stress, become more independent, and prevent disability.
  • People who get help for their emotional health and also start an exercise program can improve their overall health. They can lower their blood pressure and heart rate and control their cholesterol levels. These people are less likely to die or have another heart attack.
  • Treatment for emotional health also can help some people quit smoking.
Risks of cardiac rehabilitation:
  • The lifestyle changes that you make during cardiac rehab have few risks.
  • At first, physical activity is safer in the rehab setting than at home. Members of the rehab team are trained and have experience teaching people who have heart problems how to exercise.
  • Your rehab team will watch you to make sure you're safe. They'll check your blood pressure several times during your exercise training. They also may use an EKG (electrocardiogram) to see how your heart reacts and adapts to exercise. After some training, most people learn to exercise safely at home.
  • Very rarely, physical activity during rehab causes serious problems. These problems may include injuries to your muscles and/or bones or heart rhythm problems that can lead to death or recurrent heart attack.
  • Your rehab team will tell you about signs and symptoms of possible problems to watch for while exercising at home. If you notice these signs and symptoms, you should stop the activity and contact your doctor.
This answer is based on source information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Continue Learning about Heart Disease Treatment

Is High-Intensity, Interval Exercise Safe for Heart Patients?
Is High-Intensity, Interval Exercise Safe for Heart Patients?
For the last several decades, cardiologists and exercise physiologists have recommended regular aerobic exercise to improve cardiac function and lower...
Read More
What is the best question I can ask about a referred cardiologist?
Dede BonnerDede Bonner
Ask, “Do you trust this doctor enough to send your own family to her?” This question works well whet...
More Answers
Will I need more than drug treatments if I have heart disease?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
With the help of medications, most people with coronary artery disease can live normal lives wit...
More Answers
Sneak Peek: Biggest Medical Breakthroughs
Sneak Peek: Biggest Medical Breakthroughs

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.