At-Home Cardiac Rehabilitation: 8 Basic Exercises

When people first hear of at-home cardiac rehabilitation, it is typically challenging for them to envision what a session would look like. 

Below is a closer look at what you should expect from an at-home cardiac rehab program and why it may be a great option for you. 

1. Marching in Place

When you are performing cardiac rehab exercises at home, the amount of physical space you have can be limiting. In a gym, you have an immense array of cardio equipment, but chances are that your home is less well-stocked than a full-fledged gym. 

Rather than spending thousands of dollars on expensive cardio machines like a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, you can simply march in place. This exercise involves standing in one place and lifting one knee at a time in a marching motion. This exercise may seem simple, but it can help improve cardiovascular fitness, leg strength, endurance, balance, and coordination.

2. Deep Breathing

When people think about cardiac rehab exercises, they typically think about physical activity. While many of the goals of cardiac rehab are to improve your physical health, it is essential not to overlook the psychological aspects of your health as they can directly impact your overall health. 

Deep breathing exercises can be incredibly useful in a cardiac rehab program for several reasons. The first is that many individuals enrolled in a cardiac rehab program are dealing with heart failure, which can directly impact your lungs or contribute to other lung-related conditions such as COPD

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of heart failure and COPD, and learning techniques like deep breathing can help reduce distress and enable people to live more normal lives. 

In addition to helping manage symptoms of chronic conditions, deep breathing can be an effective way of managing and dealing with stress. 

3. Side Leg Raises

Many cardiovascular issues come as a result of living a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting has often been compared to the “new smoking” in terms of its detrimental impacts on the cardiovascular system. 

A sedentary lifestyle not only reduces your cardiovascular fitness but can also directly impact your muscular definition. The lower body can become weakened by a lack of movement throughout the day, and maintaining strength in this region is incredibly important for maintaining mobility and independence. 

Side leg raises are a great way of improving strength in the larger muscle groups of the legs while simultaneously working on the flexibility and range of motion of the hips. The exercise involves standing and lifting one leg out to the side while keeping the other leg straight. It can help improve leg strength, balance, and stability, all important in your quality of life.

4. Calf Stretches

Another great exercise that can be done in the comfort of your own home is calf stretches. The calves are important muscles that are constantly being utilized for getting around. A sedentary lifestyle can reduce the mobility and flexibility of these muscle groups, and a stretch is a great way to help improve both flexibility and range of motion, which can help to reduce the risk of injury.

In addition to the benefits of flexibility and range of motion, calf stretches can also help manage one of the common symptoms of heart failure, known as peripheral edema. With heart failure, fluid can accumulate in different parts of the body, including the lower legs. Stretching these areas and moving them could help reduce edema. 

5. Seated Hip Abductions

One of the main targets of cardiac rehab exercise aside from improving cardiovascular health, is improving the strength and mobility of muscles and joints that are weight-bearing. The hips are an incredibly important joint with a wide range of motion that can be limited by a sedentary lifestyle. 

Reduced hip mobility and strength, especially in the hip abductors, may increase the risk of injury in certain activities. 

A seated hip abductor exercise is a great at-home way of addressing this. The exercise involves sitting with legs straight out and lifting one leg to the side while keeping the other leg pressed on the floor. When performed regularly, this may help reduce your risk of injury and help improve your mobility. 

6. Arm Raises

While exercises that focus on weight-bearing muscles and joints tend to be emphasized to improve your quality of life, it is also important to work on your upper body.

An easy upper body exercise you can perform at home is arm raises. The exercise starts with you either in a seated or standing position with your arms straight by your side. You then lift the arms until they are at 90 degrees with your body and straight out in front of you. Hold this position and slowly move your arms back by your side. 

Starting off, this can be done without weights; over time, you can hold weights for some added resistance. 

7. Bicep Curls

The biceps are muscles that can go overlooked if you mainly live a sedentary lifestyle. The muscle is responsible for pulling your lower arm toward your body at the elbow. Having sufficient strength in the bicep makes many everyday tasks, like lifting objects, easier. 

Bicep curls are straightforward and can be done easily in your own home. Start in a seated or standing position and have your arms facing palms forward by your side. Hold a weight in your hand in this position and slowly bring your hand straight up toward your shoulder. 

The movement should be slow and controlled without you needing to arch your mack or move much of your body. If you are struggling, find something lighter to lift and focus on having proper form.

8. Squats 

Some of the most important and largest muscles in your body are your glutes and quads, which are responsible for important movements required for everyday life. Squats are a great at-home way of strengthening these muscles and retaining a good range of motion. 

Performing a squat involves standing with feet hip-width apart and sitting back and down as if sitting into a chair, then standing back up. It can improve leg and core strength, balance and stability, and flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles. While squats seem easy to perform, good form and listening to your body is vital to avoid injury. 

Make sure your knees don't go in front of your toes and only squat within a comfortable range of motion and depth to avoid injury. 

Is At-Home Cardiac Rehab Supervised?

There are a number of at-home cardiac rehab programs out there, and while they all allow you to get in cardiac rehab exercises, they are not all equal in the services provided. Some services simply provide you with do-it-yourself exercises to do at home. 

While these can be helpful, it leaves much to be desired, such as real-time vital monitoring, tailored exercise programs that meet you at your fitness level, and education on living a healthy lifestyle. 

Carda Health is an at-home virtual cardiac rehab program that enables you to get the same treatments you would come to expect from traditional in-person cardiac rehab programs. Getting enrolled in the Carda Health program is as easy as filling out a questionnaire, getting cleared by your physician, and working with your team to develop a tailored plan. 

Once a part of the Carda Health program, a care package with remote monitoring equipment will be sent straight to your door. This equipment will be utilized during live instruction from a trained exercise physiologist to ensure that your vital signs are in safe but therapeutic ranges to provide the most benefit without putting you at risk of injury. 

Benefits of At-Home Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs

At-home cardiac rehab is just one of many healthcare services that are creating new at-home services in hopes of reducing the barriers to patients. Patient participation rates for traditional cardiac rehab have been notoriously low despite increasing physician and cardiology referrals to programs. 

An at-home approach may help increase participation and adherence to cardiac programs by offering patients flexibility and convenience. This allows them to focus more on their health than figuring out how they will get to an appointment or trying to work their schedules around the hours of an outpatient cardiac clinic. 

Individuals who have cardiovascular disease and have recently sustained a heart attack, heart disease, or heart failure already have enough to worry about. Adding on an in-person cardiac rehab program that needs to be attended several times a week is a big ask. 

At-home cardiac rehab may be just the answer to get these individuals the long-term support they need to improve their health, avoid rehospitalization and lead a better quality of life. 

The Bottom Line

Cardiac rehab is an important aspect of the recovery and prevention of patients with cardiac risk factors such as unstable angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of cardiac events, previous heart surgery, or heart failure. Unfortunately, in-person, center-based programs have fallen short due to low patient acceptance and adherence to these programs. 

At-home solutions like the virtual cardiac rehab offered by Carda Health just may be the answer as it addresses many of the barriers to traditional rehab while still offering the same valuable services such as health education, guided exercise, and help with making lasting lifestyle changes. 


Sources:

Breathing Exercises | American Lung Association

Hip Adductors' Strength, Flexibility, and Injury Risk | Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Home-Based Cardiac Rehabilitation | THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CARDIOVASCULAR AND PULMONARY REHABILITATION (AACVPR), THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION (AHA), AND THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY (ACC).

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