Safe Exercise for Patients with Heart Disease by Texas Round Pen

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

There is almost no ailment that exercise doesn't profit from. As such, just because you've had a heart attack, a weak heart (congestive heart failure) or other heart disease, doesn't mean that you have to sit around and do zilch. In fact, with systematic exercise (greater than 20 minutes a day), you may accelerate your recovery, improve heart function and even get off of some of the prescriptions you're on.

Cardiovascular benefits of exercise include:

Strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system

Improving your circulation and helping your body use oxygen better

Improving your heart failure symptoms

Lowering blood pressure

Improving cholesterol

It's never too late to increase your physical activity or start an exercise program. Get approval and some guidelines from your physician before you start.

Getting Started: Things to Chat with Your Doctor on your specific exercises

Always check with your physician first in advance of starting an exercise program. Your physician can assist you in finding a program for your level of fitness and physical condition.

Here are some dialogue questions:

How much work out can I do?

How often can I work out each week?

What type of work out should I do?

What type of undertakings should I avoid?

Should I take my prescription(s) at a certain time around my workout schedule?

Do I have to take my blood pressure during work outs?

Your physician may decide to do a stress test or an echo cardiogram, or to adapt your medications. Always check with your doctor first before starting any work out.

General Workout Tips and Caveats for People with Heart Failure

Avoid too much isometric exercises such as pushups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.

Don't exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot or humid without checking with your doctor first. High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly. Dangerous temperatures can restrict with circulation, make breathing problematic and cause chest pain. Smart choices are indoor activities such as mall walking or a treadmill.

Make sure you stay hydrated – within reason. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days. But, be careful not to drink too much water. Check with your doctor first!

If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation or bad weather), make sure you ease back into the routine. Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you are back where you started.

Warnings during Exercise

There are some precautions you must keep in mind when developing an exercise program:

Stop the exercise if you become overly fatigued or short of breath. Discuss the symptoms with your doctor, or schedule an appointment for evaluation.

Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or were very recently ill. You should wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before restarting the exercise program. If uncertain, check with your doctor first!

If you have persistent shortness of breath, rest and call your doctor. The doctor may make changes in medications, diet or fluid restrictions.

Stop the activity if you develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat or have heart palpitations. Check your pulse after you have rested for 15 minutes. If it's above 120 beats per minute at rest, call your doctor.

If you experience pain, don't ignore it. If you have chest pain or pain anywhere else in the body, do not allow the activity to continue. Performing an activity while in pain may cause stress or damage to the joints.

If you pass out, call your doctor or seek urgent care as soon as you awake.

Stop Exercising and Rest if You Have Any of the Following Symptoms:

Chest pain Weakness Dizziness or lightheartedness Unexplained weight gain or swelling (Call your doctor right away.)

If you feel pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw or shoulder, or any other symptoms that cause concern.

Never exercise to the point of chest pain or angina. If you develop chest pain during exercise, call 911 right away.

Exercise: Only One Part of the Equation

In order to maintain optimal cardiovascular health, eating a heart healthy and mostly plant-based diet, along with stress reduction, in combination with exercise as outlined above is critical for success.