Heart attack

Community based exercise programme (Phase 4)

After the 6-12 week course of cardiac rehabilitation has finished, people ‘graduate’ and are invited to attend ongoing community based exercise programmes (Phase 4). These exercise programmes might be run through local cardiac rehabilitation team, a local support group (see Interview 18) or GP’s may refer people to them.

Community-based cardiac rehabilitation (Phase 4) provides people with known coronary heart diseases (myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass graft, percutaneous coronary intervention and stable angina), the possibility to benefit from weekly supervised exercise sessions. People who are eligible include those who have participated in Cardiac Rehabilitation programmes and those who meet certain medical criteria and have been assessed by their GP.
Community-based cardiac rehabilitation classes should be run by a trained instructor, who has experience of running exercise classes for cardiac patients. One man, after a heart attack forced him to retire early, became a BACPR (British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation) qualified instructor and now runs one of these programmes.
Many of the people we spoke to said that it was fun exercising with others who had similar problems. Some of them have been attending these classes for a long time simply because they enjoy it. One man went twice a week for three years after his heart attack. 
People talked about the sense of camaraderie that developed over time between participants. For them, cardiac rehabilitation seems to provide more than just exercise allowing people the opportunity to share experiences; joke with one another; make new friends; and socialise. Several people said that their groups organise Christmas and other social events.
To exercise under the supervision of a qualified instructors has given many of the people we interviewed the confidence to ‘stretch that little bit more’ while exercising in the gym or practicing on their own.
We also spoke to people who did not have access to Phase 4 cardiac rehabilitation programmes but who nonetheless, have joined a local gym to keep up the exercise routine learned at the cardiac rehabilitation classes. 
Many of the people we talked to view exercise as an important ongoing aspect in their lives.. In addition to community-based exercise sessions, people have tended to do daily activities like walking, cycling or gardening. Several have continued or taken up sports like golf.
Among the people we spoke to there were those who prefer community based exercise sessions run for cardiac patients rather than attending a regular gym. For them it is important to ‘exercise with a purpose’. Some people we spoke to stressed that a positive attitude to life and working towards achieving goals has greatly helped in their ongoing rehabilitation.

​Last reviewed June 2017.


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