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Cardiovascular Rehabilitation

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital

Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Home Exercise Programme

To get the most benefit from the cardiovascular rehabilitation programme we recommend that you do some form of exercise on the days you are not attending class. You may like to take a brisk walk or do some gardening, or use this sheet to give you some ideas.

Over time, you should aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five times a week. However, for some, a less intense programme may be more suitable (for example building up to 10 to 15 minutes over time).

Always do the warm-up exercises first. Then complete the exercises before finishing with the cool down. Before you start to exercise, remember to enjoy it and:

  • Wait 1 hour after a meal before exercising
  • Monitor your levels of exertion. Aim to achieve no more than 5 on the ‘How it feels breathing scale’ scale. This means that the exercise should feel ‘somewhat hard’.
  • If you usually carry a GTN spray, keep it with you when exercising. If you experience symptoms of angina, stop exercising and follow the instructions for the use of the GTN spray
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing
  • Drink water to rehydrate the body. If you are on a fluid restriction, please discuss this with cardiac rehabilitation team
  • Prepare the environment before your exercise by rolling up any rugs or mats. Have a sturdy chair close by for support.
  • For exercises that involve weights, you could use bags of sugar, tins or plastic bottles of water. If you have your own set of weights – start off at 1kg (2.2lbs) and increase as able
  • Don’t begin to exercise if you feel unwell.
  • Don’t continue to exercise if you have chest pain, nausea, dizziness, unusual joint pain, become very breathless, or cold and clammy
  • If you are unsure about any exercise or stretch, do not attempt it and ask a member of the team

The exercise programme is based on a circuit. You should start with the warm-up which last around 15mins, followed by the main exercises component for between 15-40mins (dependent on your ability) and then a cool down for 10mins.

We recommend you start the exercise programme at Level 1, regardless of your previous abilities. Progress to level 2 and 3 when you are able to complete 40mins at the previous level without feeling too short of breath (how it feels breathing scale below 4).

The main exercise component is continuous, doing each exercise for the allocated time and then moving straight onto the next. Depending on your ability you may not initially complete a full circuit, but as your ability improves and you’re able to exercise longer, you may be able to complete more than one circuit.

Warm Up

Level 1Level 2Level 3

Cool Down

Below is the how it feels breathing scale. You should measure how hard you are working by using this scale.

  • Aiming for 2- 3 by end of warm-up
  • Aiming for 3-4 during the main exercise.

How it feels to breath

0 Nothing at all
0.5 Very, very light/just noticeable
1 Very light/very easy
2 Light/easy
3 Moderate/beginning to feel a bit puffed
4 Somewhat strong/fairly hard

Feeling a bit puffed but able to talk

5 Strong/hard/out of breath
7 Very strong/very tiring/very out of breath
10 Very, very strong/extremely hard

Almost maximal


Highest possible

Referrals to Cardiac Rehabilitation are accepted via your Consultant or GP. For any further information contact the Cardiac Rehabilitation team on 01582 497469.