Cardiac Fitness Program

Playing and being physically active should be a part of every childhood — it brings kids together and offers many benefits both mentally and physically. And yet, some kids — and adults — with congenital heart defects (CHDs) miss out on physical activity because of their condition.

The Cardiac Fitness Program at Boston Children’s Hospital was built on the belief that people with CHD can and should achieve the same benefits of exercise as their peers. Our program — one of only a few in the country — offers a supervised, individually-tailored exercise and education program for children and adults with congenital heart conditions and pediatric-acquired heart disease. The benefits of exercise often extend well beyond fitness and health, to greater confidence and improved overall quality of life.

Girl using exercise ball supervised by a Cardiac Fitness Program clinician

What are the goals of the Cardiac Fitness Program?

Our goal is to help patients go beyond rehabilitation to reach a level of fitness they didn’t realize they could achieve. We want to empower kids with CHD to participate in exercise, become more fit and gain self-confidence in life skills.

Another goal of the program is to help our patients develop a positive attitude about exercise and physical activity. We want to help our patients discover strengths and abilities they may not have known they possessed.

Who can benefit from the Cardiac Fitness Program?

We typically see patients ages 8 and older who could benefit from being more active, are recovering from surgery, or need help developing safe and effective exercise practices. We work with people who have a wide range of heart conditions. All our patients are assessed by a specialized exercise cardiologist for risk and eligibility.

Is cardiac fitness safe for those with heart problems?

Yes. Studies show that serious problems during supervised exercise training are rare. In the event of a problem, we have appropriate emergency equipment on site. We monitor each patient’s heart rate and rhythm and are implementing state-of-the-art wireless telemetry during exercise.

Our expertise in cardiac fitness

Our large patient volume, combined with our clinical expertise and strong academic resources, set our program apart from others of its kind. Our team includes pediatric and adult congenital cardiologists, exercise physiologists and a nutritionist who share the same aim: to help patients enjoy physical activity, improve overall health and build exercise into their daily routine.

Our five cardiologists specialize in understanding exercise physiology for patients with congenital heart conditions. Together, they have more than 70 years of experience in the assessment and management of exercise-related concerns in congenital heart patients of all ages. Our four exercise physiologists, all masters-level trained with extensive clinical experience, work with our cardiologists to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.