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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery VCU Medical Center VCU

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Exercises After Surgery

There are a few exercises that will help improve your recovery. These will keep your lungs clear and keep your blood moving.

Coughing and Deep Breathing

This exercise will keep your lungs expanded and help to prevent pneumonia.

  • Get in a comfortable position.
  • Hug your incision on your chest with a pillow.
  • Close your mouth and take in a deep breath through your nose. You should feel your belly rise until your lungs are full.
  • Purse your lips like you are going to whistle and slowly exhale.
  • Rest for a few seconds.
  • Repeat the exercise 4 more times.
  • Cough after the 3rd deep breath. Remember to give your pillow a hug to protect your incision.
Incentive Spirometer

This is a machine that will help you to breathe deeply and mark your progress as your lungs expand. The nurse or respiratory therapist will review the technique with you.

Leg and Ankle-Exercises

These exercises are done to keep the blood moving in your legs.

  • Push the toes of both feet toward the end of the bed. Relax. Pull the toes of both
    feet toward you. Relax.
  • Point your toes away from you and draw a circle with them. Do this with the right foot, then the left foot.
  • Straighten both legs and let them relax. Slowly bend one leg by sliding your foot
    on the bed toward your thigh. Straighten and relax your leg. Repeat with the
    other leg.
Getting Out of Bed

Getting out of bed encourages you to deep breath and helps the blood flow in your legs. You will be getting out of bed the day after your surgery. This may be uncomfortable the first time, but is critical to your recovery. The nurse should give you pain medication before getting you out of bed. Do not try to get out of bed the first time without help from the nurse.  To get up from lying down, turn to side then swing legs off the side of the bed, then sit up.  Try not to push or pull with your arms.


Walking is an important part of your recovery. The sooner you start walking the quicker your recovery will be. You may begin walking the first day after your surgery.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

You will most likely start the Cardiac Rehabilitation program 3-4 weeks after surgery. A member of the cardiac rehabilitation team will meet with you before you leave the hospital.


Questions or Concerns, Please Call 804-828-2774


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