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Regular activity has many benefits for people who have heart failure. It may help you to:
If you aren't already active, talk with your doctor before you start an exercise program. Of course, what's safe for you depends on how bad your heart failure is. But even if you can do only a small amount of exercise, it's better than not doing any exercise at all.
If you have heart failure, it's important to be careful when you are active. If you exercise too much or too hard, you may put too much stress on your heart. And that can make your heart failure worse.
Work with your doctor to build a plan before you start exercising. Together you can create a plan that will keep you active, healthy, and safe.
Your doctor may do tests to find out how much activity your heart can safely handle. These tests may include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and possibly an exercise stress test. Then your doctor can suggest a safe level of exercise based on your condition and the stage of your disease.
Cardiac rehab can help you get and stay active. Your rehab team will design an exercise program just for you. It will be based on your health and goals.
Your doctor can help you choose activities that will help your heart and are safe for you. An exercise program usually consists of stretching, activities that increase your heart rate (aerobic exercise), and strength training (lifting light weights).
With your doctor, plan how often, how long, and how hard you will be active. Don't exercise too hard, because it can put stress on your heart. And it may make your symptoms worse.
You should be able to talk easily without being out of breath. If you notice that you're out of breath, have chest pain, or don't feel right, stop exercising. Take a rest. Know when to call for help.
Learn how to check your pulse or use a heart rate monitor. Your doctor may give you a range of how fast your heart rate should be when you exercise.
Talk with your doctor about how to know when it's not safe for you to exercise. Cut back on your exercise if you're tired or not feeling well.
Tracking your activity can help you see what you're doing well and where you could improve. Seeing your progress can inspire you to keep doing the things that are working well.
Many people use a fitness app to track their activity. Many of the apps are free.
If you prefer, you can write down your activity in a notebook. Bring your tracker to doctor visits to talk about your progress and how you're feeling.
Some ideas for things you can track include:
Here are some ideas to help you stay with your exercise plan.
Do activities you enjoy. Try exercising with a friend. It can be much easier to keep doing an exercise program if you exercise with someone else.
If you expect too much, you're likely to get discouraged and stop exercising.
It can take months to get into the habit of exercising. After a few months, you may find that you look forward to it.
Build in rewards along the way that help you continue your program.
It's common to want to do things on our own, without help. But if you have heart failure and you want to be more active, support from others can make a big difference.
Many people find that involving others really helps when trying to reach goals.
So ask yourself: who could help you be more active? And how could they help?
Support can come in different ways. It might come from your care team, cardiac rehab, or a support group. Or it could come from family, friends, neighbours, or pets.
Here are some ideas for getting support. It may help to write down your thoughts.
Take a minute to think about two or three people who could help you be more active. If it helps, you can write down their names.
When people have helped you before with other challenges, what kind of help was the most useful? Could you get the same kind of help now?
If you like verbal encouragement, what would you like to hear and from whom?
This could include things like help with cost, transportation, or planning for your daily activities. What would help most?
What activities, if any, would you be more likely to try with a friend or family member?
When is a good time to reach out to someone to help you be more active?
Current as of: September 7, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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