Increasing your strength after open-heart surgery

An important part of your recovery following open-heart surgery is gradually increasing your strength and physical activity. A structured in-hospital exercise program will guide you through four progressive steps, from sitting up in bed to walking in the halls with minimal assistance.

4-step program to increase strength

Step 1

  • Sit up in bed with assistance.
  • Stand up at bedside with assistance.
  • Sit up in chair for 15 to 30 min. (2 or 3 times a day).
  • Perform self-care activities while seated

Step 2

  • Sit up in bed independently.
  • Stand up independently.
  • Walk around room and to bathroom.
  • Perform self-care activities in the bathroom.

Step 3

  • Sit and stand up independently.
  • Walk short distances (50 to 100 feet) in the hall with assistance.

Step 4

  • Perform self-care activities, including bathing.
  • Walk short distances (150 to 200 feet) in the hall with little assistance.

As your strength increases, your recovery team (doctors, nurses, and physical therapists) will encourage you to gradually increase the amount of walking in the halls that you do. The goal is to raise your heart rate and increase your circulation.

Last Updated: October 8, 2008

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