Exercise and Walking Program

Getting Started

Before you leave the hospital, a physiotherapist will give you a home exercise program. The main purpose of this program is to improve your physical function. Other benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Improved endurance, fitness and energy level
  • Positive effect on blood sugar control
  • Lowering or maintaining blood pressure
  • Improving blood cholesterol
  • Managing weight
  • Managing stress
  • Reducing joint and muscle stiffness
  • Restoring sleeping pattern
  • Reducing risk of depression

Your physiotherapist has developed a physical activity program of morning exercises and daily walking for you to complete during your first few weeks following surgery. The program has been designed to help your recovery and prepare you for cardiac rehabilitation.

The day you travel home from hospital, we ask that you rest and enjoy your return home. The next day (day one at home) begin the stretch/strength exercise program that a therapist reviewed with you prior to your departure from hospital.

The following day (second full day at home) begin your walking program. The program is designed to build your endurance, and later build up your speed. It is designed for you based on your heart function, your recovery in hospital and your previous level of activity.

The goal is for you to exercise regularly for a positive lifestyle, as well as to help you return to the activities that you most enjoy (swimming, golf, gardening, etc.). In the longer term, your goal is to exercise five to seven times per week as prescribed.

This physical activity program will be changed and advanced when you start Cardiac Rehabilitation, according to your abilities and personal goals.

Expect to:

  • Feel tired for the next few weeks
  • Gradually increase your activity level
  • Need frequent rest periods

Physical Activity Tips


Breathe steadily and in a relaxed manner while you exercise. Avoid straining and never hold your breath.

Pace and Intensity

Exercise at a level that allows you to maintain light conversation during the activity.


Walk on flat ground to start. If hills are unavoidable, walk more slowly when going uphill.


It is best to wait an hour or two after a meal before you exercise. This is because extra energy is required for digestion.


Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures. If it is very hot and humid, walk during the cooler part of the day such as in the morning and later at night. If it is extremely cold or windy, exercise indoors using stationary equipment such as a stationary bike or treadmill or walk in the hallways of your house/apartment or in a mall. If you do choose to exercise outdoors in colder weather, walk during warmer times of the day and cover your face with a scarf to help warm the air before it reaches your lungs.


It is important that you keep good posture. Try to keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Avoid slouching forward.


Do not cross your legs as this slows down circulation and will increase the risk of developing blood clots in your legs.


After your walks, stretch your calf muscles. They are likely to get tight as you begin to increase your daily activity.

  • Stand straight close to a solid surface on which you can use your hands for balance.
  • Place one leg behind the other, with both your feet pointing forward.
  • Bend the knee that is forward while keeping the back knee straight until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.


Abnormal responses to exercise may include nausea, headaches, dizziness, chest pain or palpitations.

If you notice any of these, stop and rest until the symptoms decrease. If these symptoms persist, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Call the nursing coordinator at the 24-hour access number 613-696-7000, press 0 and ask to speak with the Nurse Coordinator.

Your Exercise Program

  • The day you return home from the hospital, you should rest.
  • The next day, do your morning exercise routine and spend the day relaxing around the house.

Your second full day at home, start your walking program:

  • Take two walks of equal duration each day as prescribed.
  • Walk at a pace that is brisk but allows light conversation without becoming too short of breath.
  • Continue this program until you begin cardiac rehabilitation.

If you have any questions about your exercise program please call the number below and leave a message for your physiotherapist.

613-696-7000 x13102

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program of exercise, education, and counseling that will help you to make heart-healthy living a part of your everyday life. Before you leave the hospital, please make sure you have information or an appointment with Cardiac Rehabilitation.

More information can be found on the Heart Institute website in the Cardiac Rehabilitation section. For any questions about cardiac rehabilitation, please call 613-696-7068.

Personal Health and Activity Log

Keep track of your recovery and activity in the Personal Health and Activity Log (pdf). It will help both you and your health care team see how much you have improved.

Morning Exercise Routine

Breathing Exercises

Breathing Exercises

Sit straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, back supported and shoulders down.


  • Take as deep a breath as you can through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Repeat five times.
  • You can try to cough after this exercise to help clear your lungs of mucus.


Shoulder Exercises

Shoulder Exercises

Lift both shoulders up as high as you can, and let them relax down.


  • Repeat three times.

Shoulder Exercises

Squeeze your shoulder blades together as far back as you can, until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest.


  • Repeat three times.


Neck Stretching Exercises

Neck Stretching Exercise

Looking straight ahead, turn your head slowly to look over one shoulder as far as you can.


  • Hold for three seconds.
  • Repeat to the other side.
  • Repeat three times.

Neck Stretching Exercises

Keeping your head facing forward and shoulders down:


  • Bring your ear towards your shoulder until you feel a stretch at the side of your neck.
  • Hold three seconds.
  • Repeat to the other side.
  • Repeat three times.


Trunk Rotation

Trunk Rotation

Cross your arms in front of your chest.


  • Gently rotate your trunk to one side and hold for three seconds.
  • Repeat to the other side.
  • Repeat three times.


Ankle Exercises

Ankle Exercises

Sit with your back straight and hands in your lap or at your sides.


  • Straighten one knee, pulling your toes towards you.
  • You will feel pulling in your calf and the muscles in your thigh will tighten.
  • Move your ankle back and forth three times then lower your leg slowly.
  • Repeat five to 10 times with each leg.


Trunk Bending

Trunk Bending

Stand straight with your arms at your sides and bend your upper body sideways.


  • Breathe out as you bend sideways and breathe in as you return to upright. Pause at this point.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat three times on each side.


Heel and Toe Rock

Heel and Toe Rock

Stand holding onto a solid surface for support, with your feet slightly apart and knees straight.


  • Go up onto your toes, then let your heels down slowly.
  • Lift your toes up high, rocking back onto your heels, then let your toes down slowly.
  • Repeat five to 10 times.




Holding a solid surface, place your feet shoulder width apart and keep your back straight.


  • Bend your knees and hips slightly, keeping your heels on the ground.
  • Return to a standing position.
  • Repeat five to 10 times.


Breathing Exercises While Standing

Breathing Exercises in Standing

Stand straight and put both of your hands on your right hip.

Lift your left arm up and out as high as it can go.


  • Lower your arm and return your hand back to your right hip.
  • Breathe in as you lift your arm up; breathe out as you lower it.
  • Repeat three times.
  • Do the same exercise with the other arm.

Breathing Exercises in Standing

Stand straight with arms relaxed at your side.


  • Breathe in as you lift your arm up forward as high as it will go.
  • Breathe out while lowering your arm down.
  • Repeat three times.
  • Do the same exercise with the other arm.