If you have a diagnosis of coronary artery disease, also called heart disease, you might feel nervous about exercising.
You shouldn't worry. Multiple studies show that physical activity has many benefits for people with your condition. In fact, regular exercise at a moderate to vigorous pace actually makes your heart muscle stronger. And that's just the beginning of what exercise can do for you.
Be sure to check with your doctor before becoming more active.
Benefits of physical activity
For people with heart disease, exercise may help:
- Lower high blood pressure
- Lower levels of fat in your blood
- Lower blood sugar levels (especially important for people with diabetes)
- Lower "bad" cholesterol
- Raise "good" cholesterol
- Quit smoking or reduce the amount you smoke
- Reduce overweight and obesity when combined with a healthy, lower-calorie diet
Start with your doctor
Before you start or increase an exercise program, be sure to see your doctor. He or she will probably talk to you about your current level of activity and any symptoms or problems you may have when exercising. Be ready to talk about any other medical conditions you have. And you should bring a list of any medicines you take.
Your doctor may give you some tests like the cardiac stress test on a treadmill. If you have a diagnosis of heart disease, he or she may recommend one of the following:
- Cardiac rehabilitation. This is a wellness and exercise program overseen by medical professionals. The goal is to help people with heart disease improve their health. It offers exercise training. It can encourage you to make healthy lifestyle changes. It may offer lessons on how to lower stress.
You may have done a cardiac rehabilitation program after having a heart attack or other serious incident related to your heart disease. If not, ask your doctor if it may be right for you.
- Independent exercise. With your doctor's approval, you may be able to exercise on your own. Your doctor may recommend a specific exercise routine. He or she may also recommend a clinic, trainer or other resources.
These tips can help you increase your physical activity level safely if you have heart disease:
- Talk to your doctor about what activities are safe and suitable for you.
- If you haven't exercised in a while, start slowly and build up to your goal.
- Make exercise part of your daily routine. Choose activities you enjoy.
- Remember that you can break your activity into smaller chunks.
- Always warm up before and cool down after you exercise.
- Exercise with a buddy.
- Bring your cell phone and your emergency medications.
- Call 911 immediately if you have chest pain while you exercise.
- Ask your doctor what symptoms you should watch for while exercising and what you should do if symptoms develop.
If you are living with heart disease, exercise done regularly and done the right way can improve your overall health.
Created on 07/08/2010
Updated on 08/25/2013
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Explore cardiac rehabilitation.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Benefits of physical activity.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How is coronary heart disease treated?