Exercising with a Heart Condition

Physical activity is good for everyone! The good news is that if you speak with your doctor or specialist and they say it is safe for you to be active then there is no reason why you shouldn’t start today. But before you put on your exercise clothes and tie up your shoelaces there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure you’re moving safely.

First and foremost you need to get medical clearance to start or change a physical activity program. Make sure you ask your doctor if he/she thinks there are any exercises you should avoid.

Next, if you are wondering where to start, make an appointment with an Exercise Physiologist who can help to make sure you know how much, how often and how hard you need to be exercising.

If you have a known heart condition then there are a few things you may want to consider:

  1. If your medication changes you need to ask your doctor how that might impact on your ability to be physically active. Sometimes medications can change how your body responds to physical activity. Changing medications is not an excuse to stop, but an opportunity to review your program and make sure it is right for you.

2. Avoid heavy lifting, pulling or pushing if possible. These activities can cause increases in blood pressure.

3. Avoid isometric or static exercises where your muscle is contracting against an immovable object for example wall squat, plank or stomach crunches (held).

4. Avoid exercises that involve both your arms being above your head at the same time. These exercises increase blood pressure unnecessarily.

5. Never hold your breath while exercising, ensure you maintain normal breathing throughout all movements. Breath holding can also increase blood pressure.

6. Try to avoid exercising when it is humid, hot or cold. Humidity can cause undue fatigue, hot and cold environments can interfere with the body’s circulation, cause breathing difficulties and sometimes even chest pain. Extreme temperatures increase the workload on the heart. Exercising indoors is the best option if you have a heart condition.

7. Always remain hydrated.

8. Do not ignore pain and follow angina protocols where prescribed.

9. Aerobic and strength training activities that use large muscle groups are great because they strengthen your heart and lungs, improve blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.

10. Walking up hills may be harder when you have a heart condition. Hills can still be included in your workout but you may need to reduce your pace or include rest periods where needed.

11. Be sure to include a warm up and cool down to reduce the stress on the heart and allow the body to prepare for and recover from exercise effectively.

12. Monitor your heart rate and breathing during exercise to ensure you are staying within your limits and not pushing yourself too hard.

13. Stop exercising if you feel unwell, experience breathlessness or have pressure or pain in the chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder. If you experience dizziness or become lightheaded during exercise slow exercise and then rest. Seek medical assistance if needed.

Remember everyone can exercise! Be prepared, know your limitations during exercise and when you should stop in order to be safe.

Most importantly have fun and enjoy a healthier you!

You don’t need to be an athlete, you just need to move a little more than you did yesterday.

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