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Cardiac Rehabilitation: Monitoring Your Body's Response to Exercise - Topic Overview


Angina symptoms are caused by your heart muscle not getting enough blood flow (myocardial ischemia). Your angina may feel like chest pain or discomfort. But you might feel it in other parts of your body. In any case, note if increased effort leads to any symptoms that can be relieved by rest or nitroglycerin.

For some people with heart problems, angina always occurs during activity. And these people must monitor the severity of the pain or stop doing the activity. Other people with heart problems rarely or never have angina. Either way, it is important that you recognize angina and know what is usual for you.

Unless your doctor has specifically told you differently, you should stop exercising when you feel angina symptoms. Talk to your doctor about when you should call about angina symptoms. There are also medicines your doctor can suggest that you may be able to carry with you to treat your angina.

Shortness of breath

If you have difficulty breathing during exercise, your heart may be having trouble keeping up with the intensity of your exercise. This difficulty breathing or shortness of breath is called dyspnea. The dyspnea rating scale will help you identify how difficult your breathing has become.

Your level of dyspnea during exercise will vary depending upon your cardiac history and current health status. Your health professionals' recommendations for an acceptable level of dyspnea will also vary.

Dyspnea rating scale
Rating numberAmount of dyspnea
0No dyspnea
1Mild, noticeable
2Mild, some difficulty
3Moderate difficulty, but can continue
4Severe difficulty, cannot continue

By monitoring your level of dyspnea, you can find out the level of exercise intensity that is most appropriate for you. Usually, you want to keep your dyspnea level during exercise lower than a level 3. Report to your doctor if and when you experience any abnormal shortness of breath.

Recording measurements

An exercise diary is an excellent way to keep track of your current aerobic level as well as identify improvement. With each note you should record the time, distance, and mode of activity. Include any additional information such as weather conditions, clothing, specific terrain, time of day, and overall feeling.

A sample exercise diary
Date Activity Time Comments
3/15/2010Walking25 minutesWent approximately 1.5 miles. Weather was a little windy so I wore a sweater. Stayed on the footpath. Overall it felt good with no pain. I did 10 minutes of stretching when I got home.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 13, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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