One often discussed but seldom practiced topic is regular exercise for a healthy heart. While it applies to everyone in general, patients with pre-existing heart diseases and who have experienced heart attack, angioplasty, or bypass surgery too benefit from daily exercising that helps them keep their condition under check. But, Is exercise worth the effort? Absolutely, say experts. Heart patients who increase their physical activity boost their confidence; increase their fitness level; cut their risk of dying; report less depression, stress and social isolation; and improve their overall sense of well-being.
So here are some general workout tips:
- Pace yourself. Don’t do too much, too soon. Give your body time to rest between workouts.
- Don’t exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid. High humidity may tire you more quickly. Extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.
- Don’t exercise in hilly areas. If you must walk in steep areas, slow down, going uphill to avoid working too hard.
- Wait at least an hour after eating a meal before you exercise.
Types of Exercise
- Cardio (aerobic exercise). This makes your heart beat faster. It also lowers your blood pressure. You could walk, jog, jump a rope, bicycle or dance. Consistency is essential in aerobic workouts which you can do at least 30 minutes three times a week. But start with whatever you are comfortable with. As your physical condition improves, consider gradually increasing your workouts to 30 to 60 minutes, five or more times a week.
Before starting aerobic exercise, prepare your muscles by walking and stretching for 10 to 15 minutes. After ending your workout, cool down by strolling and stretching for at least 5 minutes.
- Strength training. Heart patients are suggested to include strength training–also called weight lifting or resistance training–in their physical conditioning program at least 2 days a week. This tones and builds up your muscles, though they may raise your blood pressure short term. So stick with lighter weights and just lift them more times.
- In addition to a specific exercise program, you can help your heart further by increasing your daily activities. Ride a stationary bicycle while watching TV or reading the newspaper or take up gardening, or even brisk walk or bike on short errands. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
How do you stick to the routine?
- Ban boredom by picking a variety of activities that you like. Don’t do the same thing over and over again.
- Make playlists. Use music to keep you entertained.
- You won’t always feel like it and you’ll find all sorts of excuses to not do it but you’ll need to make a decision ahead of time and ignore that impulse.
- Working out is more fun if you have a friend with you.
- Stay within your budget. Avoid buying expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you’re certain you’ll use them.
Yoga for Heart Patients
Yoga weaves physical, mental, and spiritual elements together to deliver a complete workout. Research suggests yoga to be able to decrease risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and a high body mass index (overweight or obese). An easy practice, it doesn’t put the same strain on the body as other weight lifting or aerobic exercises do. In addition, it doesn’t usually require equipment or much space as well.
Watch out for these while exercising
Stop exercising if you become overly fatigued or short of breath or have chest pain or palpitations. You should be able to talk during your workout. If you can’t, it’s probably too intense for you.
Dr. Nikhil Choudhary,
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist,
Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur