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Heart Disease and Exercise

How Can I Stick With Exercise?

  • 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. Develop a group of several different activities to do on alternate days that you can enjoy. 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? (For example, losing weight, strengthening muscles, or 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). Add a variety of exercises so that you do not get bored. If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle.
  • Find an exercise "buddy." This may 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.

Exercise Precautions for People with Heart Disease

  • Call your doctor if changes have been made in your medications before continuing your regular exercise program. New medications can greatly affect your response to activity.
  • If you are too tired and are not sure if it is related to overexertion, ask yourself, "What did I do yesterday?" Try to change your activities by starting out at a lower level today (but do not exercise if you are feeling very overtired). Pace yourself and balance your activities with rest.
  • Ask your doctor if you can participate in these activities: weightlifting, weight machines, jogging, or swimming.
  • Reduce your activity level if your exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather). Then, gradually increase to your regular activity level as tolerated.
  • Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or have a fever. Wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before starting your exercise program, unless your doctor gives you other directions.
  • If you are short of breath during any activity or have increased fatigue, slow down your activity level or rest. Keep your feet raised or elevated when resting. If you continue to have shortness of breath, call your doctor. Your doctor may make changes in your medications, diet, or fluid restrictions.
  • If you develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat or have heart palpitations, rest. Check your pulse after you rest for 15 minutes -- if your pulse is still above 120 beats per minute, call your doctor for further instructions.
  • Do not ignore pain. If you have chest pain or pain anywhere else in your body, do not continue the activity. If you perform an activity while you are in pain, you may cause stress or damage on your joints. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for specific guidelines. Learn to "read" your body and know when you need to stop an activity.

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