“Exercise? Yeah, I know I should, but where do I begin?”
This question takes on a whole new meaning when asked by someone with a heart condition. Instead of deciding which gym to join or which video to purchase, those of us in this distinguished group have bigger things to consider. For instance, if my heart rate goes above a certain number, am I gonna die?!!? It’s these types of questions that make your exercise choices very personal and specific.
I’ve heard it from my doctor; no doubt you have too. ‘Exercise is an important part of keeping your condition under control’. That’s all good and fine, but where do I begin?
Know Your Limits
The truth is, changes will need to be made to your past exercise routine. As an example, I used to be able to ride my bike for miles and never break a sweat. Now, just looking at my bike gets me winded.
Of course, there are many facets to heart disease. No two conditions are alike and only your doctor is in the best position to offer specific recommendations. That being said, here are some things to discuss with your doctor:
- Medication: New medications can greatly affect your body’s response to exercise. Before continuing with your current routine, check to see that it is still safe.
- Heavy Lifting: Check to see if lifting or pushing heavy objects (i.e. chores such as raking, shoveling, mowing, scrubbing) are ok. Even chores we may have had no trouble with in the past now leave us tired. Do only what you are able to do.
- Safe Exercises: As for the old standards (lifting weights, use of a weight machine, jog, swim, etc.) ask first then do.
General Workout Tips for Heart Disease Patients
The good folks at WebMD have put together a fantastic list of do’s and don’ts that should be discussed with your doctor.
1.) Be sure any exercise is paced and balanced with rest.
2.) Avoid isometric exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.
3.) Don’t exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid. High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly; extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain. Better choices are indoor activities such as mall walking. (Plus you can shop; that’s exercise, right??)
4.) Stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.
5.) Extremely hot and cold showers or sauna baths should be avoided after exercise. These extreme temperatures increase the workload on your heart.
6.) Steer clear of exercise in hilly areas. If you must walk in steep areas, slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard. Monitor your heart rate closely.
7.) If your exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather), ease back into the routine. Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you’re back where you started.
While dropping a quick 40 pounds may not be possible, focusing on long-term goals meant to increase your strength and stamina will keep you encouraged. Find what works best for you and stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.
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