Increasing awareness of the importance of cardiovascular prevention is not yet matched by the resources and actions within health care systems. Recent publication of the European Commission's European Heart Health Charter in 2008 prompts a review of the role of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) to cardiovascular health outcomes. Secondary prevention through exercise-based CR is the intervention with the best scientific evidence to contribute to decrease morbidity and mortality in coronary artery disease, in particular after myocardial infarction but also incorporating cardiac interventions and chronic stable heart failure. The present position paper aims to provide the practical recommendations on the core components and goals of CR intervention in different cardiovascular conditions, to assist in the design and development of the programmes, and to support healthcare providers, insurers, policy makers and consumers in the recognition of the comprehensive nature of CR. Those charged with responsibility for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, whether at European, national or individual centre level, need to consider where and how structured programmes of CR can be delivered to all patients eligible. Thus a novel, disease-oriented document has been generated, where all components of CR for cardiovascular conditions have been revised, presenting both well-established and controversial aspects. A general table applicable to all cardiovascular conditions and specific tables for each clinical disease have been created and commented.