Dr. Dan Ziebell is the director of the Cardiac Fitness Program at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and a pediatric cardiologist with University of Utah Health.

While it is important that everyone be physically active, it is especially true for kids who have heart disease, heart surgeries, or even a heart transplant. That’s the spirit behind the new Cardiac Fitness Program at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“Many kids with heart disease are nervous or anxious to be physically active, and we want to show them they can participate and help them build their confidence and physical capacity,” said Dan Ziebell, MD, pediatric cardiologist with University of Utah Health and Director of the Cardiac Fitness Program at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

The pediatric Cardiac Fitness Program is one of only a few nationwide, Ziebell said. The program is part of the nationally ranked Heart Center at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

The Cardiac Fitness Program is a one-on-one, supervised fitness program helping kids receiving treatment for congenital and acquired heart conditions.

The program is specifically tailored to each child. Participants engage with an exercise physiologist two or three times per week to improve their muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and physical performance. The program helps them understand their limitations, and feel comfortable being physically active on their own.

“We want every kid to be active, get stronger and improve their aerobic fitness,” Ziebell said. “We want to do it in a way that is fun, personalized, and centered around the things they are interested in doing.”

The program started about six months ago, and currently enrolls 12 patients. Its reach, however, is expanding.

The Cardiac Fitness Program is available in person at the Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake Campus, and now at the new Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Campus in Lehi, Utah. It’s also available virtually to patients who are unable to travel long distances.

Virtual participants receive a box of exercise equipment they can keep, including exercise bands, weights, a jump rope and a fitness mat, as well as a wearable activity tracker.

“Everyone knows that exercise is important to physical and mental health, but people for the longest time have struggled to get kids with heart problems to be active. This is the best way we know how to do it,” Ziebell said of the program. “We’re taking this concept of cardiac rehabilitation, and making it part of the standard of care for our patients. We want kids to be happier, healthier, sleep better, and do better at school. We know that being active is part of that.”

Go to intermountainhealthcare.org/primary-childrens for more information.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.