Tony Cesta riding recumbent bike
Tony Cesta, a participant in the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, tests out new recumbent bike at Toronto Rehab’s Rumsey Centre. (Photo: Courtesy GoodLife Fitness)

Tony Cesta is understanding his new limits.

Despite being physically active all his life, Tony learned 10 years ago he had a blockage in one of the main arteries in his heart. Over time, the blockage grew to 90 per cent and he had a stent installed.

Before the procedure, Tony, a lifelong hockey player and long-distance runner, never felt any chest pain even when exercising at a high level. Afterwards, it was important to allow the stent to heal while resuming a more moderate level of exercise, not pushing himself too hard on the road to recovery.

Today, Tony is halfway into the six-month Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program through the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC). He has received a prescription for exercise and is learning how to regulate and control his heart during physical activity, also reintroducing resistance training into his fitness routine to balance out his cardio workouts.

"Most patients are recovering from more serious heart issues including heart attacks, bypass surgery and transplants," Tony says. "Some have not exercised before and are starting from scratch.

"I have always been very active, so for me, the challenge is to build up my tolerance and not push myself too hard. I wear a heart rate monitor and pay attention to my breathing to make sure I'm exercising in a safe zone.

"That control is what I needed for peace of mind and to recover effectively. I want to know I'm not doing damage."

More than 2,500 patients each year participate in the PMCC Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, which gives them access to the expertise and fitness equipment at Toronto Rehab's Rumsey Centre and Toronto Western Hospital.

Earlier this week, GoodLife Fitness donated 40 pieces of new fitness equipment, including treadmills, upright and recumbent bikes and elliptical machines, to the two sites. It's part of an ongoing partnership between the London, Ont.-based fitness club chain and PMCC, which began in 2012 with a $5-million gift to UHN's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program.

GoodLife Fitness Club Services Associate installs bike
A GoodLife Fitness Club Services Associate installs one of 15 new exercise bikes at Toronto Rehab’s Rumsey Centre earlier this week. (Photo: Courtesy GoodLife Fitness)

"Exercise is a vital ​part of living with heart disease – people who exercise have a much higher chance of successful recovery and improved long-term outcomes than those who don't," says Dr. Paul Oh, the program's Medical Director, who in 2014 became the inaugural GoodLife Fitness Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation.

"Thanks to GoodLife's ongoing support we've been able to provide patients with a great space to work on their heart health through exercise."

The goal of the collaboration between GoodLife and PMCC was – and still is – to create the best possible cardiac rehabilitation program and further research in this area.

David "Patch" Patchell-Evans, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GoodLife, says his company "is proud to support the incredible medical professionals at the PMCC with the best equipment and expertise to reinforce the continuum of care for patients with heart disease by introducing fitness to their rehabilitation."

Tony, who is benefitting from the expertise and access to equipment at the Rumsey Centre, is hoping the program will help him get back to his previous fitness level and continue being active.

"I'm running and cycling five times a week, as well as doing resistance exercise twice a week," he says. "I'm experiment with heavier weights and increasing my cardio endurance with guidance.

"The program helps me understand my limits."​

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