Cardiac rehabilitation: A boost toward better health

Home to one of the nation’s first cardiac rehabilitation programs, UW Health’s exercise, nutrition and counseling specialists can help you feel better and live longer as you recover from a major heart event.


Start moving now

Getting your strength back after a major heart event takes time. Cardiac rehabilitation not only helps you get stronger faster; it gives you the tools to make the kind of changes to reduce your chances of a future heart event and enjoy a longer, healthier life.

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehabilitation (or cardiac rehab for short) is a medically- supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health through exercise, training, education and risk modification. Most patients participate on an outpatient basis, usually three times a week for up to 12 weeks.

Statistics show that patients who participate in cardiac rehab can reduce their risk of future heart events, future hospitalizations and death while increasing their stamina and capacity for resumption of normal activities.

Who can benefit from cardiac rehab?

Most patients will be referred to Cardiac Rehab if they have experienced any of these heart-related events:

  • Heart attack

  • Stable angina (exercise-induced chest pain)

  • Coronary artery angioplasty or stents

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery

  • Heart valve repair or replacement

  • Heart failure or implantation of a ventricular-assist device (VAD)

  • Heart transplant

Why UW Health

UW Health is one of the leading pioneers in the development of cardiac rehab programs. The late Dr. Bruno Balke, who was a professor of kinesiology and physiology at UW–Madison, was among the first to discover that incorporation of physical activity into the recovery process is far more beneficial than bed rest, which had been the recommended practice until the late 1960s.


Many insurance plans cover cardiac rehab for heart failure. We can review your insurance with you. For questions about insurance coverage, call (608) 263-7420.

What to expect

On-site coaching to kick-start your recovery

During the early days and weeks of recovery, it can be hard to know when to resume normal physical activities and whether you are doing too much or not enough.

Cardiac rehab provides a safe environment with just the right amount of on-site coaching during the early stages of recovery so you can comfortably and confidently achieve complete independence. You’ll also have the chance to meet and talk with other patients also going through recovery.

In Madison, cardiac rehabilitation is offered at Science Dr Medical Center on the west side and East Madison Hospital on the east side.

Northern Illinois patients have access to the Cardiac Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic in Downtown Rockford.

Cardiac rehabilitation sessions are about an hour each, with a typical course running three sessions per week for 12 weeks. You will typically use aerobic exercise equipment such as a treadmill or exercise bike. You’ll also have weights on hand to help you build strength. As you exercise, your blood pressure and heart rhythm will be periodically monitored. At first, you will be closely supervised, but as you become stronger and more confident, you will exercise more independently.

Cardiac rehabilitation can offer something for everyone, even elite athletes and long-distance runners. Regardless of how active you were before your heart event, there are great benefits to resuming physical activity with trained professionals on site to provide physical, nutritional and emotional support.

You will be discharged from the program and free to continue your physical activities wherever it is convenient for you, be it walking regularly in your neighborhood or joining a UW Health Fitness Center or other gym or pool of your choice.

Patient story

Delonda's journey

After an emergency department visit, Delonda was diagnosed with heart failure and referred to UW Health's cardiac rehab team. They worked with her to implement some lifestyle changes to benefit her heart and overall health.

Meet our team

Experts there for you

You'll be coached by experts in all facets of improving your health:

  • Exercise physiologists to help you get moving

  • Dieticians to help you eat healthier

  • A health psychologist to help you cope with emotional changes


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