Home >> Content >> How Active Should You Be?
Heart Failure

How Active Should You Be?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 09:50

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

It's very important to talk with your doctor about the amount of exercise you need and whether you should limit any of your normal activities. For example:

  • Can you go for a walk or swim, ride a bike, cut the grass, play golf?
  • Is it okay to return to work, either full time or part time?
  • Is sexual activity okay?

The answers will depend on:

  • Whether you have mild or severe heart failure
  • How successful your treatment is

If your heart failure is mild

If your heart failure is more severe

There's probably no reason to stay home from work, stop the leisure activities you enjoy, or abstain from sexual activity. But it's important to avoid exercising too hard and to rest if you find yourself getting short of breath. Your doctor will advise what's best in your particular case.

If you get very short of breath just by walking half a block, your doctor may advise you to take it easy until your medications are working well. Then, gradually, you can do more and more.

Need To Know:

Is Exercise A Good Idea?

Exercise is intended to strengthen your heart, not stress it. For many people who suffer with heart failure, exercise can help the heart work better. And exercise can also help you to control your weight, which will reduce further strain on your heart. Regular exercise helps keep your whole body in good condition.

For most people, walking is the best exercise.

  • Start with a few blocks, adding distance as you get stronger.
  • Slow down or stop and rest if you become short of breath.

If it is hard for you to start an exercise program on your own, or if you don't know how much is safe, ask your doctor about special programs for heart patients. For example, your local YMCA may have classes that will help you get just the right amount of activity. Also, some hospitals offer cardiac rehabilitation programs designed especially for people with heart problems.

Don't exercise more than your doctor has advised. Your doctor may suggest the following:

  • An exercise stress test to determine how much exercise you can do safely.
  • A consultation with a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, who will help plan and monitor your exercise program.
  • Aerobic exercises (at 60% to 90% of your maximum heart rate-your doctor will tell you what that rate is).
  • A special "monitored" exercise program, where your exercises will be based on your pulse rate.


This article continues: