How to Exercise for Heart Health

May 10, 2022 3:45 pm Published by

physical therapy.

When you’ve had a heart attack, starting to exercise again may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s important. Exercise for heart health is a key part of helping you recover.

Think of it this way: when you’re trying to strengthen a part of your body like your biceps, you perform exercises that get that muscle moving. As you challenge the muscle, the muscle gets stronger.

The heart is also a muscle, so when you’re looking to strengthen your heart, you have to exercise it. You do that by getting it pumping faster than it does when you’re at rest.

When you’re recovering after a cardiac event, however, you may have questions about what you can do and when.

Is It Safe to Exercise After a Heart Problem?

When you’ve experienced some type of cardiac event or are recovering after a heart procedure, listen to your cardiologist’s guidance about what you can and can’t do. Your medical team has the most relevant information about your abilities and health and can provide personalized guidance.

If it’s been a while since your cardiac event and you’re wondering about whether it’s safe to start exercising, talk with your medical provider at a regular checkup. In general, exercise is safe, and it helps you recover.

The Benefits of Exercise When Recovering

Regardless of your physical activity levels before your event, exercising afterward has some major benefits.

First and foremost, it can extend your life. A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that exercising even moderately during the first year following a heart attack reduced mortality in the years afterward. Those who reported “increased activity” between two follow-up visits with researchers had a 60% lower risk of dying in the following four years, while those who were “constantly active” were 71% less likely to die in that time period.

In addition, physical activity gently challenges the heart, which helps it to strengthen and heal. This can allow you to return to your normal routine more quickly. Being physically active also helps decrease your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing another cardiac event in the future.

Getting Back to Exercise Safely

Following a cardiac event or a heart procedure, your medical team will probably recommend you participate in cardiac rehab. This medically supervised program is designed to equip you with the skills and information you need to not only recover but also to avoid heart health issues in the future.

During cardiac rehab sessions, which typically occur over a three-month period, participants learn tips about exercising safely, effectively managing stress, heart-healthy eating and smoking cessation. As part of the program, you’ll be encouraged to develop a walking program that you can continue at home, gradually increasing your speed and the duration of your walks.

Even if you don’t participate in cardiac rehab, it’s important to think “slow and steady.” You don’t want to overexert yourself or put strain on your heart, so start out slowly and build up over time.

Walking is usually the easiest workout to begin with. Whether you walk inside or outdoors, choose a flat walking surface without any potential tripping hazards. As you walk, pay attention to your body. Stop the activity if you begin to feel very tired or become short of breath.

If you usually lift weights, don’t resume that activity until your medical provider gives you a thumbs up. In general, during the first few weeks after a cardiac event or heart procedure, you should avoid lifting anything heavier than five to 10 pounds.

Finally, consider where you’re exercising. Choose an environment where you won’t become too hot or too cold. That may mean working out indoors on intensely hot or cold days.


Whether you want to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist for a checkup or require cardiac rehab after a heart procedure, Magnolia Heart & Vascular Center offers the comprehensive, advanced heart care you need.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center