Being active when you have a heart condition

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It’s natural to feel nervous about getting back to physical activity if you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, and especially if you’ve had a heart attack or surgery. 

Being active every day can have good effects on your heart. Aim to build up to the Heart Foundation recommended 30 minutes on most, if not all, days. 

Regular, moderate-intensity activity, like brisk walking, is generally safe for most people. In fact it’s a vital part of your return to everyday life, and it can help you avoid further heart problems by managing risk factors like high blood pressure and being overweight. Being more active will make you feel more confident, happy and relaxed!

Talk to your doctor first

The best thing you can do is talk with your doctor about your particular situation. Ask your doctor to register you for cardiac rehabilitation. They can tell you when you can start being active and how to build up your activity levels.

After a heart attack or heart surgery

If you’re recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, talk to your surgeon or doctor about being active. 

More information on sex after heart attack or heart surgery.

Tips for starting exercise safely

These tips can help whether you’re recovering from a heart attack or surgery:

  • Check with your doctor about safe levels of exercise. 
  • Exercise within comfortable limits. Avoid physical activity if you feel unwell, tired, or sore from previous activity.
  • Start doing the activity gradually and at a low intensity. For example, start with a gentle walk around the house or garden, or along flat pavements. Build up gradually to walking further distances or at a faster pace. 
  • If you want to do more intense activity, check with your doctor first, and build up slowly over a number of weeks.
  • Slow down or stop if you feel short of breath, get irregular heart beats or chest pain. You should be able to talk normally while you’re doing the activity, without getting short of breath. 
  • If you need to take angina medicine, carry it with you when you do the activity. 
  • Take a mobile phone with you while you’re out exercising, particularly if you’re alone. That way if you feel unwell you can call someone.

Getting started

You can start with small amounts and build up. Before you know it you’ll be up to 30 minutes a day.

If you are just starting out, try this guide for building up your walking over 6 weeks. Once you’re up to 30 minutes a day, keep on going!

Week  Minimum time (mins) Times per day Pace
1 5-10 2 Stroll
2 10-15  Comfortable
3 15-20  Comfortable
4 20-25 1-2  Comfortable/stride out
5 25-30  1-2  Comfortable/stride out
6 30  1-2  Comfortable/stride out

Join a walking group 

Heart Foundation Walking aims to make regular physical activity enjoyable and easy, especially for people who are not used to being active. 

Walking is a good type of physical activity for people with heart disease because it’s gentle on your body and you can go at your own pace. Walking with other people can help with motivation and confidence. Join a Heart Foundation walking group near you.

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