After suffering a heart attack, exercise is integral to the healing process. Exercise will help you get your strength back and will keep your body and heart healthy.
It is important to note that following a heart attack, everyone recovers at a different pace. Recovery can vary based on the severity of damage to your heart and your level of activity before the incident. During the recovery process, remember to be kind to yourself and to listen to your body. Developing the right exercise routine for you may take some time. You should also listen carefully to the advice of health care professionals and consult your doctor before making major changes to your exercise routine.
Even if you were quite active before your heart attack, it is recommended to start slowly and gradually build up the level and intensity of exercise. You should work towards doing 30-45 minutes of activity per day through very gradual increments. During your exercise, you should not be too out of breath to carry on a conversation.
Walking is the ideal form of exercise to help you regain your strength after a heart attack. It is low impact and allows you to go at your own pace and on your own schedule. Also, walking can be social! Walking with family and friends or joining a walking group can make exercising more enjoyable, and motivate you to stick with it.
You can start to develop a routine by walking around your house daily and then moving to outside walks when you feel comfortable. Adjust your pace as necessary – if you start to feel out of breath, slow down a little bit. Start your walks at around 10 minutes and try to add a few minutes each day. Aim to go on these walks as many days of the week as you can. Also, don’t forget to cool down at the end of your walk by slowing your pace for at least 5-10 minutes.
While strength training is also important after a heart attack, you have to be careful when first starting out. If you have had bypass surgery, it is recommended that you allow for at least 6 weeks of healing before initiating any resistance training exercises. Heavy lifting, lifting above your head, or dropping your head below your heart can raise your blood pressure. You may be able to include some resistance bands into your exercise routine. When you feel comfortable, you can begin adding some light weights. Slowly build up to doing a set of 8-12 of these curls, then eventually build to doing 2 or 3 sets. When you’ve mastered that, consider adding light dumbbells.
If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations or increasing fatigue, notify your doctor and do not continue with your exercise routine. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to regaining strength after a heart attack. The most important things to remember are to consult with your doctor, build your routine gradually and listen to your body. Set goals and targets for yourself, and take it day by day. LIVE WELL wants to help you regain your strength and develop a routine that works for you! We offer highly specialized cardiac rehabilitation programs to keep your heart strong. Visit our website to learn more about our customized exercise programs.