About our newly introduced program to the GTA called “Heart Wise Exercise”?

By Josie Acquisto

“One of the barriers that prevent people from exercising is an uninviting environment. Our intention is to give people the opportunity to exercise in an ideal and safe setting, that is designated as a “Heart Wise Exercise” program,” says Paul Sawyer, the new “Heart Wise Exercise” facilitator for the GTA.

The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada is pleased to announce that “Heart Wise Exercise” (HWE) will be expanded in the greater Toronto area, thanks to a grant received in July 2011 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. “Heart Wise Exercise” is a program designed to give opportunities to exercise for people who have had cardiovascular disease or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This program will be introduced to facilities in the GTA to provide an easy, safe and convenient place to exercise with people who have the same goal in mind - to improve cardiac health and live a healthier life!

What is Heart Wise Exercise?

  • A program designed to bring the community together by exercising
  • Involves people with cardiovascular disease and those concerned about their health to move from their cardiac rehab programs to a long term exercise setting, in a place close to home!
  • Allow for people to continue exercising through those cold winter months

What makes up a Heart Wise Exercise Program?

A Heart Wise program meets the following six criteria:

  • Encourages regular daily aerobic exercise,
  • Incorporates and encourages warm-up, cool down and self-monitoring,
  • Exercise sessions allow participants to exercise safely and has options to increase intensity of exercise,
  • Accepts participants with a known history of cardiac disease (provided they have physician approval)
  • Provides health screening,
  • Has an emergency plan that is documented and known to all exercise leaders, including the requirement of current CPR certification, phone access to EMS and an on-site AED.

Why should I participate in Heart Wise Exercise?

  • “Exercise is the most powerful therapy when it comes to rebuilding damaged hearts,” says Dr. Paul Oh- Medical Director of TRI Cardiac Rehab & Secondary Prevention Program and Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada Medical Advisor.
  • Dr. Paul Oh suggests that people who complete cardiac rehab should continue to exercise daily. “The Heart Wise Exercise program steers people in the right direction by identifying safe, suitable and heart-friendly exercise programs in the community as they transition from a hospital to home.”
  • Exercising on a regular basis and improving fitness is one of the key behaviors that will keep us out of hospitals, and live better lifestyles.

Is this the first Heart Wise Exercise program?

  • No, Ottawa is home to the “Heart Wise Exercise” program
  • Created in 2007 to help patients who finished the University of Ottawa’s Heart Institute Cardiac Rehab Program to continue the lifestyle changes they made, including daily aerobic exercise, that were adopted while attending the hospital-based program.
  • To date, over 100 sites are now offering recognized exercise opportunities
  • Over 300 exercise leaders have been trained to support patients living with cardiovascular disease

Who is Heart Wise Exercise suitable for?

Heart Wise Exercise is suitable for anyone who is interested or concerned about their cardiac health. This program aims to target people who have:

  • Successfully completed cardiac rehab
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Exhibited several risk factors of cardiovascular disease
  • Sustained a heart attack
  • Undergone heart disease treatment, such as angioplasty or stenting, etc.
  • Undergone by-pass surgery
  • Had a non-disabling stroke
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Diabetes

What are risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease?

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Race
  • Inactivity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Alcohol intake
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Gender

Look for this “Heart Wise Exercise” logo to find out if an exercise program meets the “Heart Wise Exercise” program requirements:

Interview with Paul Sawyer, the new HWE facilitator for the GTA. Interview done by Josie Acquisto, fourth year student at the University of Guelph-Humber, interning as a Medical Researcher at the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada.
Paul Sawyer’s past experience includes the Leadership of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program and the Cardiopulmonary Exercise Labs at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa. He is also the CEO of Chronic Health Matters and the Central East Rep of the CRNO.
Collaborative partners of the “Heart Wise Exercise” Program in the GTA include The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, The Toronto Rehab Institute, YMCA of Greater Toronto, Toronto Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Mikey Network.


  1. Heart Wise Exercise Program. (2011). About Heart Wise Exercise. Retrieved from http://heartwiseexercise.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1&lang=en
  2. WebMD. (2009). Risk Factors for Heart Disease. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/risk-factors-heart-disease
  3.  Health.com. (2008). 10 Risk Factors for Heart Disease. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20188499,00.html

The articles, on the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website, are presented with the understanding that the Foundation is providing information only and not rendering medical advise. Please check with your family physician, specialist or health care professional before implementing any of the ideas expressed in these articles.