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Being Active When You Have More Than One Health Problem - Topic Overview

How do you stay safe? continued...

Your doctor may work with you on an exercise prescription. This clearly sets out what is safe for you, such as your target heart rate range and any need for medical supervision while you exercise. If you need medical staff with you when you exercise, your doctor will suggest that you sign up for an exercise rehab program.

3. Know when to stop and when to call your doctor. When you exercise, it's normal to have some minor muscle and joint soreness. But other signs may point to something more serious. Stop exercising if:

  • You have pain in your chest or upper belly that may spread to your neck, jaw, upper back, shoulder, and arms. Call 911 right away if this happens. Chest pain can be a signal of a heart attack.
  • You are panting or are very short of breath.
  • You feel sick to your stomach.
  • You have pain, joint discomfort, or muscle cramps that won't go away.

Your doctor may add other symptoms to look out for, based on your health.

Call your doctor if your symptoms don't go away quickly or if they come back again.

What are some basic tips for exercising when you have health problems?

Be as active as you can as often as you can, but honor your body's limits.

  • Set goals that you can reach. If you expect too much, it's easy to get discouraged and stop exercising.
  • Keep your emergency phone numbers with you at all times.
  • Don't be too active when you begin. This could mean starting out with just a few minutes of exercise. Each day or so, slightly increase how long and how hard you're active.
  • Find a group, class, or buddy you can enjoy being active with.
  • Stay within your doctor's guidelines. For example, if you have angina, walk just a little slower than the pace that gives you chest pain. If you have arthritis of the knee or hip, walk on level ground and avoid hills. Even better, exercise in the water. If you are unsure of your safe range, work with a physical therapist to find it.
  • Do not exercise if your condition is worse than usual. For example, if you have heart failure, do not exercise during a flare-up.

Health experts suggest that older adults and people with long-term health problems try to:

  • Stretch for at least 10 minutes a day, 2 days a week.
  • Strengthen the major muscle groups with 8 to 10 exercises a day, at least 2 days a week.
  • Try to do at least 2½ hours of moderate exercise a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.

These are guidelines. A slow walk might feel hard, easy, or somewhere in between for you, depending on your health and fitness levels. You and your doctor can decide what's best for you.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 02, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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