Congenital Heart Defects: Exercise and Sports - Topic Overview
Children and adults with
congenital heart defects can be active and get regular exercise. Most don't have exercise restrictions. But restrictions on the intensity or type of exercise might be needed depending on the type or severity of the defect.
Being active helps keep your heart and body healthy. So even a person who has restrictions can still exercise within limits. Your doctor can help create a set of activities at a level that is safe and healthy for you or your child.1 Your doctor might also suggest target heart rate goals and limits, how long to exercise, and how often to exercise.2
"I never thought it could happen to me."
That's how Rose Rench reacted when doctors told her she was having a heart
attack. At age 46, Rench was bewildered when she suddenly couldn't catch her
breath while out for a walk on a sunny spring day. "I was young, I was 130
pounds, and I'd quit smoking a month before. I was healthy. But I couldn't
Rench tells WebMD that she somehow drove herself home, but couldn't rest;
her mind raced as she tried to gasp for breath. "I thought maybe I...
Your doctor can tell you if you or your child should limit activity or sports participation. Limits might be based on the severity and
type of heart defect.3
Most people with mild or repaired heart defects don't have exercise restrictions. They usually can participate in any type of
sport or exercise.
People who have a severe defect, a cyanotic defect, heart pumping problems, or heart rhythm problems might have exercise restrictions. But they can still be active. Their doctors can help create exercise plans to stay healthy and enjoy a good quality of life.
Tests before exercise
Anyone with a heart defect should check with a doctor before starting an exercise or sports program.
Some children who have a
heart defect will have an exercise stress test done by the time they
are in school. As your child ages and is interested in new sports or more intense exercise, you can review the exercise plan with your child's doctor and make sure that it's still right for your child.
At your regular checkup with your doctor, review your exercise plan to make sure that it fits your life and is safe and healthy for you.