How to Exercise Safely When You Have a Heart Condition
Heart conditions are remarkably common in the UK. In fact, according to the NHS, around 2.3 million people currently have coronary heart disease, and 2 million are affected by angina, which is a symptom of CHD. Many people with heart conditions worry about how, or if, they can exercise safely without making their condition worse.
Heart disease refers to a restriction in the supply of blood to the heart, which is generally caused by a built-up of fatty substances in the arteries. Whilst heart disease remains the UK’s biggest killer, the great news is that it is reversible, and certainly need not be a death-sentence. There are various lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health, and exercise is one of the most beneficial steps you can take.
Exercise Safely with a Heart Condition
Of course, when embarking on a new exercise regime, it’s imperative to make sure you stay safe. Before you begin, book an appointment with your GP, who will be able to outline a suitable exercise programme tailored specifically to your levels of fitness. Additionally, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking the following steps.
- Avoid eating 2 hours before working out vigorously.
- Stay hydrated, both prior to exercising, during exercise, and afterwards.
- Reduce your exercise if you feel unwell or excessively tired.
- Listen to your body. If you experience pain in your chest, irregular heartbeat, extreme breathlessness, dizziness or extreme fatigue, stop immediately.
Establishing an Exercise Regime
If you’re going to experience any benefits from exercise, it’s important to do it regularly, preferably at least 3-4 hours per week. Research suggests that just walking briskly for 3 hours a week at least, lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by 45%.
If you feel that your levels of fitness are not high, aim to start gradually. Begin with 5 to 10 minutes of low-impact exercise every other day, and set yourself the goal of walking a little bit further and a little bit faster every week. In addition to walking, swimming is an excellent activity to start with, as the water’s natural buoyancy supports your weight, reducing strain on the body.
Get Inspired to Exercise
The British Heart Foundation recommends setting a goal as 150 minutes of exercise per week. If the prospect of doing 150 minutes seems daunting, aim to break it down into manageable chunks. Two lots of 10 minute work-outs per day doesn’t seem nearly as strenuous as three 50 minute sessions!
Set yourself realistic goals. Remember, over-exercising will actually do more harm than good, and could have an adverse effect on your health. The aim is to build up gradually and to focus on making exercise a part of your everyday life.
Book in regular check-ups with your doctor for additional motivation. Seeing the results of your exercise translate into lower cholesterol, reduced blood pressure and weight-loss is a real incentive to keep going!
Remember, exercise is an important factor when it comes to cardiovascular health, but it’s not the only thing you’ll need to change in your lifestyle if you want to see results. It’s also vital to have a good diet, limit alcohol intake and to stop smoking.
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We have many other articles offering helpful advice on exercise especially geared to the over 50s age group. Why not check out the Menu at the top of this page.