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Heart Disease and Exercise

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Achieving Maximum Results

The American Heart Association recommends working up to exercising on most days of the week. The more exercise you can do, the better for your fitness. But any amount helps your health.

If you're not active now, start slow, and gradually 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.

Wait at least an hour after eating a meal before exercising. If your doctor gave you any restrictions on fluids, keep that in mind if you drink liquids during exercise.

If You Have Heart Failure: 7 Tips

  1. Pace yourself. Be sure to balance activity with rest.
  2. Avoid isometric exercises, such as pushups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or against a steady object.
  3. Don't exercise outdoors when it’s too cold, hot, or humid. High humidity could make you tire more quickly. Extreme temperatures can interfere with blood circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain. Instead, try indoor activities, like mall walking.
  4. Drink enough water so you don’t get dehydrated. Follow your doctor's guidelines about how much fluid you can have in a day.
  5. Avoid very hot or cold showers or saunas after exercise. Temperature extremes increase the workload on the heart.
  6. Don't exercise in hilly areas unless you’ve discussed it with your doctor. If you must walk on steep slopes, slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard.
  7. If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (perhaps due to illness, vacation, or bad weather), ease back into it.

Other Warnings and Precautions

Stop exercising and call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Unexplained weight gain or swelling
  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder
  • Any other symptoms that cause concern

If the symptoms continue after you stop exercising, or if they are severe, call 911.

Working out may make your muscles sore at first. That's normal, and soreness will fade as your body gets used to the movements. But if you have any sudden or severe pain, stop exercising.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 15, 2014
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