Getting Physically Active

senior couple dog walking in autumn

People with heart disease need regular physical activity as much as anyone else. Studies show that people who begin to engage in regular physical activity and make other healthy changes after a heart attack live longer and have a better quality of life than those who don't. Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength and ability to function well.

Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burns calories, such as raking leaves, climbing stairs, walking or playing sports. It becomes regular or planned when you organize your activities into a consistent, ongoing program. Besides your regular physical activity program, you can add more physical activity to your day by doing activities such as household chores, playing with children and pets or walking up stairs.

This physical activity program combines exercises that benefit your heart (aerobic exercises) such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking with strength and stretching exercises for overall stamina and flexibility.

Ask your doctor when you can begin a physical activity program. Your doctor can help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition and may refer you to a formal cardiac rehabilitation program to help you learn to be active safely. You may also need an exercise stress test before you become active again.

Your doctor can tell you what symptoms to watch for during physical activity. If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to follow your health care professional's instructions.