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Heart Disease and Exercise

What Should I Include in my Exercise Program?

Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a cool-down.

  • Warm-up. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles, slowly increases your breathing, circulation (heart rate), and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes dynamic stretching, range of motion activities, and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity level.
  • Conditioning. This follows the warm-up. During the conditioning phase, the benefits of exercise are gained and calories are burned. Be sure to monitor the intensity of the activity (check your heart rate). Don't overdo it.
  • Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean to sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise. This may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.

 

What Is the Rated Perceived Exertion Scale?

The Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale can be used to measure the intensity of your exercise and to help you monitor your exercise tolerance. The numbers below relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, based on a 0-10 scale, a 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair; 10 (very, very heavy) would be how you feel at the end of an exercise stress test or after a very difficult activity.

 

Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale
0Nothing at all
0.5Just noticeable
1Very light
2Light
3Moderate
4Somewhat heavy
5-6Heavy
7-9Very heavy
10Very, very heavy

In most cases, you should exercise at a level that feels 3 (moderate) to 4 (somewhat heavy). When using this rating scale, remember to include feelings of shortness of breath, as well as how tired you feel in your legs and overall.

How Can I Avoid Overdoing It While Exercising?

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while exercising:

  • 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 follow your fluid restriction guidelines.
  • Take time to include a five-minute warm-up before any aerobic activity and include a five- to 10-minute cool down after the activity.
  • Exercise at a steady pace. Keep a pace that allows you to still talk during the activity.
  • Keep an exercise record.

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