Starting an Activity and Exercise Program
Starting an Activity and Exercise Program
Bed rest, inactivity, surgery and/or heart disease can make you feel tired and weak. A regular activity program is a wise investment of time when you consider the many benefits you gain. Some benefits of activity are:
- Helps your muscles get stronger after illness and bed rest
- Helps you heart and cardiovascular system work more efficiently
- Gives you more energy
- Increases your ability to do regular activities without getting tired
- Improves your balance and flexibility
- Helps you feel good about yourself
- Maintains muscle tone and improves your posture
- Increases the amount of calories you use. This helps you stay at a healthy weight.
There are three important parts of an activity program:
- Warm-up – Gradually move from rest to exercise. This helps increase your breathing, heart rate and body temperature; warming up can improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities and low-intensity activity.
- Conditioning – This is when you burn the most calories and get the most benefit from exercise. Remember to follow the FITT principle.
- Cool-down – This phase of exercise helps your body gradually return to a resting state. Walk slowly for a few minutes after the conditioning phase. You may also want to do some additional stretching or range-of-motion exercises.
FITT principle (Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time)
Your energy level can change from day to day after you have surgery or when you are recovering from an illness. This can affect how you progress with exercise. Be sure to remember your short-term and long-term exercise goals.
Exercise DO’s and DON’Ts
- DO start slowly and progress gradually through your activity program.
- DO warm-up and cool-down activities every time you exercise.
- DO exercise at a steady pace.
- DO dress appropriately for weather conditions and wear proper footwear.
- DO wait 60 to 90 minutes after you eat a meal before you exercise. Drink 6 to 8 ounces of fluid before and during activity, unless you need to restrict your fluids. This is especially important in hot and humid weather.
- DO reduce your activity level if your exercise program is interrupted for several days. Then gradually and comfortably work back up to a higher level.
- DO try to find a regular walking “buddy.” Having someone to walk with makes your activity time more enjoyable.
- DO stay close to home if you walk outdoors. You may want to make many small loops instead of walking a long stretch and feeling too tired to get home.
- DON’T go up steep hills or stairs while you are exercising. Avoid these whenever possible because they make the activity much harder.
- DON’T exercise if you feel overtired. It is better to wait until you feel rested.
- DON’T attempt activities that require sudden bursts of energy.
- DON’T exercise while you have an acute illness, infection or fever. Wait a few days after all of your symptoms disappear before you restart your activity program.
- DON’T exercise in extreme weather conditions. In the heat and humidity of summer, walk in the morning or evening when it is cooler. Exercising in extreme heat adds stress to your heart. Change your activity schedule if both the temperature and humidity are over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent 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. When it is cold, try walking in local malls and shopping centers.
- DON’T take extremely hot/cold showers or sauna baths after you exercise.
Remember, you play an important part in your recovery. This is especially true when following your activity program. Research shows that patients who have heart surgery or angioplasty/stents and complete an outpatient, phase 2 cardiac rehab program, have fewer repeat heart problems over the long-term. If you did not receive an outpatient, phase 2 cardiac rehab referral when you were discharged from the hospital, ask your doctor for a referral to this program.