Over the past decades undisputable evidence has accumulated identifying the panoply of beneficial effects of exercise training, smoking cessation, blood pressure lowering, glycaemic and lipid control, as well as psycho-social interventions on cardiovascular risk factors, the well-being, morbidity and mortality of patients with cardiac diseases with or without acute events. Nevertheless, despite all the evidence, insurance companies are more than hesitant to provide patients with an adequate infrastructure to allow outpatient cardiac rehabilitation in their community. Whereas some countries still favour in-hospital rehabilitation, others are on the verge of introducing cardiac rehabilitation for the first time. Thanks to the efforts of the Working Group of Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation of the Austrian Cardiac Society, detailed guidelines for outpatient cardiac rehabilitation have been introduced, which not only include aims, contents and duration of outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, but also requirements for staff, quality of care and infrastructure. As a result cardiac rehabilitation in Austria is currently undergoing a transition process from exclusive in-hospital cardiac rehabilitation to a more open approach of granting patients a choice between in-hospital and outpatient rehabilitation. Experience gained appears relevant to a great number of colleagues in many countries Europe - as well as worldwide. Since these guidelines were and still are the basis for implementing outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, they are presented in great detail, so that they may either be applied as is or simply stimulate discussion.
Keywords: Cardiovascular risk factors; diet; exercise training; quality of life; secondary prevention.