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Heart Disease Health Center

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Get Moving for a Healthier Heart

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Are you super-cautious about working out because it’s been a while since you were active, or you feel out of shape? Actually, exercise is great for you. Being active will:

  • Strengthen your heart.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Help you reach and keep a healthy weight.
  • Burn off stress.
  • Boost your mood and self-esteem.
  • Help you sleep better.

Before you get started, ask your doctor these questions:

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  1. How much exercise can I do each day?
  2. How often can I exercise each week?
  3. What types of activities should I try, and what should I avoid?
  4. Should I time when I take my medications around my exercise schedule?
  5. Should I take my pulse while I exercise? What pulse rate should I aim for?
  6. Are there any warning signs I should watch out for?

What You’ll Do

New to exercise? It helps to work with a certified fitness trainer at first. If you have heart problems, ask your cardiologist for a referral.

Cardio (aerobic exercise). This makes your heart beat faster. It also lowers your blood pressure. Depending on what your doctor okays, you could:

  • Walk
  • Jog
  • Jump rope
  • Bicycle
  • Ski
  • Skate
  • Row
  • Dance

Strength training tones and builds up your muscles. Heavy weights may raise your blood pressure short term. So stick with lighter weights and just lift them more times. Try hand weights, weight machines at a gym, resistance bands, or your own body weight. 

A good approach is to do several sets of each exercise, and then let those muscles rest a day or two between sessions.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Workout

If you’re an exercise newbie, you’ll get the most from your workout if you follow these simple rules:

Start slow. The American Heart Association recommends you work up to exercising on most days of the week. The more exercise you can do, the healthier you -- and your heart -- will be. But any amount helps your health.

Build up gradually. Little by little, make your workouts longer or tougher over time. You should be able to talk during your workout. If you can't, it's probably too intense for you.

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