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Heart Disease: Exercise for a Healthy Heart


How Can I Avoid Overdoing It?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Gradually increase your activity level, especially if you have not been exercising regularly.
  • Wait at least one hour after eating a meal before exercising.
  • When drinking liquids during exercise, remember to consider any fluid restriction guidelines. Talk to your doctor before adjusting any daily goals.
  • Exercise at a steady pace. Keep a pace that allows you to talk during the activity.
  • Keep an exercise record.

How Can I Stick With It?

  • Have fun! Choose an activity that you enjoy. You'll be more likely to stick with an exercise program if you enjoy the activity. Add variety so you don’t get bored. Develop a group of several different activities to do on alternate days. Use music to keep you entertained. Here are some questions you can think about before choosing a routine:
    • What physical activities do I enjoy?
    • Do I prefer group or individual activities?
    • What programs best fit my schedule?
    • Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of exercise?
    • What goals do I have in mind? (Examples: losing weight, strengthening muscles, improving flexibility.)
  • Schedule exercise into your daily routine. Plan to exercise at the same time every day (such as in the mornings, when you have more energy). If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle.
  • Find an exercise "buddy." This will help you stay motivated.

Also, exercise does not have to put a strain on your wallet. Avoid buying expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you are certain you will use them regularly.

General Workout Tips for People With Heart Failure

  • Be sure any exercise is paced and balanced with rest.
  • Avoid 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. High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly. Extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain. Better choices are indoor activities, such as mall walking.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days. But be careful not to drink too much water. Follow your doctor's guidelines about how much fluid you can have in a day.
  • Extremely hot and cold showers or saunas should be avoided after exercise. These extreme temperatures increase the workload on the heart.
  • Steer clear of exercise in hilly areas unless you have discussed it with your doctor. If you must walk in steep areas, make sure you slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard.
  • If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (due to illness, vacation, or bad weather, perhaps), 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.


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