Exercise can play a key role in helping you to recover from a heart attack or manage a range of other cardiac conditions. However, you must be extra careful with your keep fit regime to avoid exacerbating your health problems.
The golden rule for all heart patients when it comes to working out is to seek advice from your GP or specialist before beginning any kind of programme. They will tell you what you can do, how much of it you can undertake and, perhaps most importantly of all, what you should steer clear of.
If you are unfortunate enough to have suffered a heart attack, you will be encouraged to take part in a specially-designed rehabilitation programme. Most council leisure centres run classes with expert instructors and they are usually free, if your doctor recommends them as part of your recovery.
However, they only last for a few weeks and you need to be aware of what you should be doing after that time. Similarly, if you have been diagnosed with angina or another heart problem, you need to know what sort of exercise will prove helpful.
Where to exercise?
For most people, the choice of where to exercise is just a matter of personal preference, but it is different if you have a potentially serious medical condition. You must avoid any surroundings or weather that could make your problem worse.
Very hot, humid and cold weather can interfere with circulation, make breathing more difficult or cause you to tire quickly. Similarly, air pollution can cause breathing problems.
When you first begin an exercise programme after a heart attack or being diagnosed with cardiac disease, you should stick to training indoors. A leisure centre or private gym is the ideal choice, as it should be maintained at the right temperature and have trained staff who can help if you get into difficulties.
You can move on to outdoor exercise once you have built your confidence and doctors are happy with your progress. It is still sensible to train as part of a group or with a partner once you reach this stage, as they will be able to help if you suffer symptoms such as chest pains, nausea or dizziness.
What sort of exercise can you do?
The early stages of your workout regime should focus on aerobic exercise. Walking is the ideal rehabilitation training, as it will not put too much strain on your body. Strolling on a treadmill is the best way to start this, but you can progress to regular 30-minute walks outdoors.
While doing this, it is fine for you to experience slight breathlessness and some sweating, although you should be careful to ensure you stay properly hydrated. However, you must stop if you get very out of breath or feel any chest pain.
Aerobic exercises should continue to be the focus of your programme as the months pass, so you can add jogging, cycling and using a cross-trainer to your routine; the variety will certainly help to make it more interesting. When calculating how much training you need, don’t forget to factor in everyday activities such as housework and gardening.
If your keep fit regime is going well – and your doctor thinks it is a good idea – you can add some strength and flexibility elements to your plan. You should steer clear of lifting heavy weights, but low-resistance exercises can help to improve your fitness. It may be worth considering investing in oxygen tanks and masks to aid exercise.