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Exercise can be enjoyed by people with heart failure. Its important to keep up an exercise regiment because even short periods of bed rest can weaken the body. Exercise is a great way to strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system since aerobic exercise trains the heart to beat more efficiently. With training, the heart pumps out more blood per beat and the heart rate decreases. Furthermore, muscle strengthening can improve the utilization of oxygen by the body for any given level of heart failure. You should always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. He or she may suggest that you avoid certain activities, or that you have a stress test before you begin an exercise program. To chart your progress, as well as track your cardiac condition, it is useful to maintain a daily weight chart.

Recommended Activities

Activities to try include, walking which is a great way to increase stamina and strength while providing a low impact exercise. Cycling and swimming can be considered if you are already physically active. Start slow and increase the length or intensity of your activity as you feel up to it. Listen to your body and stop exercising if you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, or a cold sweat. Be sure to give your body rest days to recharge from exercising. It has been shown that light to moderate aerobic activity, as supervised or detailed by your health care provider, is useful in preventing progression of heart failure. However, whether or not a weight lifting regimen would provide the same benefits has been a source of controversy. Weight training can prevent physical deconditioning, which can lead to exercise intolerance, but some experts believe the strain of weight training puts the heart at risk. Should a heart failure patient use weights to keep fit? An article by Mark A. William, PhD and coworkers related to weight lifting, was published in the journal Circulation from the American Heart Association, regarding patients with HF. It was found that resistance training did not exceed the exertion of standard exercise tests. All in all, this study demonstrated that moderate weight lifting could be tolerated by some heart failure patients and may improve their condition in the long-run.

Some Useful Exercise Tips
  • Warm up with stretching exercises before you begin exercising
  • Exercise with a buddy
  • Choose exercises you enjoy
  • Avoid exercises that require quick bursts of energy
  • Avoid exercises that cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness
  • Don’t exercise if you have not eaten for a long time; try to plan your exercise time 1-2 hours after a light meal
  • Avoid exercising in extreme heat or cold
  • Monitor your pulse and perceived level of exertion
  • Exercise at the level recommended by your exercise physiologist, doctor or nurse
Resistance Training Recommendations from AHA
  • 10-15 repetitions at low resistance
  • Perform sets about 2 days per week
  • Perform training that will include the major muscle groups, such as, chest press, shoulder press, tricep extension, bicep curl, lower back extension, sit ups, quadricep extension, leg press, leg curls and calf raises
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