Tanya Bunce, RN (Photo provided)


Following treatment for cardiovascular disease, the road to recovery starts with a cardiac rehabilitation program like the one offered at the Cayuga Center for Healthy Living. Patients with qualifying cardiac diagnoses receive medically monitored exercise and risk management education through the Cayuga Medical Center program. This program is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

Numerous studies show that patients who participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program feel better, live a heart-healthier lifestyle, regain strength and reduce their cardiovascular disease risks.

How does a person get into the program?

Patients are typically referred to the program through their cardiologist or primary care provider and must have at least one of six diagnoses: heart attack, stable angina, congestive heart failure, coronary artery bypass, heart valve repair or replacement or heart transplant. Many patients at the Cayuga Heart Institute, begin a light, individualized exercise program while still at the hospital. Patients are encouraged by their physician to begin a cardiac rehab program after their hospital discharge. 

What can a patient expect from a cardiac rehab program?

A patient receives an initial evaluation to assess overall fitness, physical limitations, and lifestyle risks (such as tobacco use, diet or stress and other health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or high cholesterol). That information helps a multidisciplinary team including a supervising physician, registered nurses, and exercise physiologists develop each patient’s exercise and lifestyle modification program. 

What happens in a cardiac rehab class?

Exercise is a key part of cardiac rehab. Exercise routines include both aerobic exercises to raise your heart rate and muscle-strengthening activities that may include lifting weights or using elastic bands. Newcomers start out with light exercise that is tailored to the individual’s needs, and will likely include working out on a treadmill, arm ergometer, recumbent stepper and stationary bike. As the person grows stronger, the duration of the workout and the resistance on the machines increases so the heart and lungs work harder. Classes occur twice per week (Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday) and are about an hour long.  Insurances typically approve 36 sessions of cardiac rehab. 

What safety precautions are used in a class?

During classes the patient wears a telemetry monitor, which tracks their heart rate and rhythm.  This allows for prompt identification of any issues. If there is anything concerning detected, a physician is always available to evaluate. Cardiac rehab staff also communicates with each participant’s referring cardiologist. Blood pressure is also checked frequently to assure an effective and safe workout. Class size is typically small, so the cardiac rehab team can closely monitor each student and modify the exercise routines to match a student’s needs and abilities.

Is there a follow-up program after completing the 36 sessions?

The rehabilitation program is designed to help make regular exercise and healthy lifestyles part of the patient’s life. Participants are encouraged to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That level of exertion allows you to talk while exercising, but not sing. Some people get their 150 minutes of exercise at home or meeting with friends for fast-paced walking sessions. Many cardiac rehab graduates participate in a transition program at Island Health & Fitness that offers structured exercise sessions lead by an exercise physiologist. 

Tanya Bunce is a Registered Nurse and Coordinator of Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Cayuga Center for Healthy Living. She can be reached at 607-252-3590.