Fact or Myth: Is Exercise Too Risky After a Heart Attack?

This is a MYTH.

While a few heart attack victims may have long-term restrictions on exercise, the majority of heart attack sufferers should add exercise to their heart healthy rehabilitation program.

old man exercisingHow Exercise Tones the Cardiovascular System

Sure, exercise helps you burn calories and shed pounds, but it also helps tone the heart muscle and entire cardiovascular system. Exercise…

  • Conditions the heart to pump more efficiently, delivering oxygen-rich blood with fewer beats.
  • Lowers blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol…key risk factors for a cardiovascular event!
  • Boosts circulation and increases levels of heart healthy HDL cholesterol.
  • Clears blood vessels of blood clots and plague, and helps blood vessels expand when more blood flow is required.
  • Keeps blood sugar levels in check and lowers insulin resistance.
  • Manages stress and emotions—noted heart attack triggers!

Exercise 123

Exercise after a heart attack should be tailored according to your doctor’s guidelines and your unique circumstances. Doctors typically prescribe an exercise regimen made up of both aerobic and strength training workouts. Aerobic workouts train the cardiovascular system to utilize oxygen more efficiently, while strength building exercises increase lean muscle mass and optimize organ function.

Within two weeks of a heart attack, start with 5 to 10 minutes of exercise a day. Walk on a flat surface, such as a treadmill, or gently cycle on a stationary bike. Add some weight-bearing exercises to the mix. Increase your sessions by 1 to 2 minutes a day until you are able to exercise for 30 minutes three to five times a week.

Do not engage in strenuous physical activity after a heart attack! The heart muscle needs at least six weeks to heal. Be on the lookout for any of the following signals that you are pushing too hard during exercise:

  • Cramping in the arms or legs
  • Exorbitant shortness of breath
  • Inability to carry on a conversation
  • Severe heart pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Skipped heart beats
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Always monitor your heart rate when exercising, making sure it does not exceed 30 beats more than when at rest.