Exercise to Healthy Hearts
The heart is a muscle. And, like any muscle, it needs a workout to stay strong and healthy. Activity and exercise help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise can help you lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, manage stress, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and quit smoking. To be safe, follow these exercise guidelines.
- Contact your doctor before you begin any new exercise program.
- Choose activities that you like. You will be more likely to stick with your exercise program.
- Exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 to 60 minutes per day, most days of the week.
- Include aerobic activities in your routine. Examples of aerobic activities include walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, jogging, aerobic dance, or using exercise machines like treadmills, ski machines, stair climbers, steppers, ellipticals, etc.
- Start off slowly. With time, begin to exercise harder and for longer periods of time. Set goals and work toward them over time. Do not expect overnight success.
- Take time to warm-up and cool-down before and after every exercise session.
- Exercise at a steady pace, at a moderate intensity. Pay close attention to your heart rate and your exercise intensity and make changes as needed to stay within the proper range.
- Use the “talk test.” This means you should be able to have a conversation or speak clearly while exercising. If you can’t, reduce your intensity level.
- Wear shoes and clothes that are suited to the weather and the type of exercise you are doing.
- Avoid exercise right after a meal.
- Unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluids, drink moderate amounts (4–8 ounces) of liquids (such as water) before you exercise and every 20 minutes while exercising.
- If you have any changes to your heart medications, call your doctor before you continue your exercise program. Medications can cause serious changes to the way your body reacts to activity.
- Decrease your activity level if you have to miss several days of exercise. Slowly work back up to your normal intensity level.
- Stop exercising and rest if you have any of the symptoms below. Call your doctor if the symptoms last longer than 20 minutes or return on a regular basis.
- Extreme shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort (tightness, fullness, aching or burning)
- Dizziness or feeling faint during exercise
- Palpitations (sudden pounding, fluttering or racing sensation in your chest)
- Extreme exhaustion
- Joint or bone pain during or after exercise
- Don’t exercise at a higher-than-recommended intensity level. If you are walking in a hilly area, slow down your pace when going uphill to avoid working too hard.
- Don’t exercise when you are overtired. Wait until you are rested.
- Don’t exercise when you are very sick or have an infection or fever. Wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before you go back to your program, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.
- Don’t exercise in extreme weather conditions.
- In the heat and humidity of summer, walk in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler. This will help prevent extra stress on your heart. Change your activity schedule when the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 80% humidity.
- In cold weather, walk during the warmest part of the day. It is best not to exercise outside if it is slippery or if the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In extreme weather, exercise in a gym or recreation center. You can also walk in a local mall or shopping center. Malls often open early for walkers and have information about the distance of the available walking routes.
- Don’t take extremely hot or cold showers or extra-long sauna baths after you exercise.
- Don’t drink alcohol before you exercise.
- American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults Accessed 1/22/2015.
- Mellett LH, Bousquet G. Cardiology patient page. Heart-healthy exercise. Circulation. 2013;127(17):e571-2. American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise for Persons with Cardiovascular Disease Accessed 1/22/2015.
- Thompson PD, Franklin BA, Balady GJ, et al. Exercise and acute cardiovascular events placing the risks into perspective: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism and the Council on Clinical Cardiology. Circulation. 2007;115(17):2358-2368.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/22/2015...#11795