Common Problems and Solutions to Be Physically Active

Ask your health care team when you can begin a physical activity program. Your team can help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition by providing advice on appropriate types of activities and ways to progress at a safe and steady pace. Your team might refer you to a formal cardiac rehabilitation program to help you learn to be physically active safely.

You might also need an exercise stress test before you become active again. Your health care team can tell you what symptoms to watch for during physical activity. If you have any of those symptoms, be sure to follow your health care professionals’ instructions.

Once your health care team says you can be active, use these tips to get back on track toward your physical activity goals.

Not in the habit of being physically active

  • Keep your exercise clothes in your car, desk or by the front door where you’ll see them and have them handy.
  • Make a large sign to remind you to be physically active. Put it where you can see it easily, such as on your refrigerator, front door, TV or telephone.
  • Ask a family member or friend to remind you to be active throughout the week.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your physical activity goals. Treat yourself to a new book, a manicure, a massage or special outing.

Lack of time

  • Break up activities into a few short sessions instead of one longer session.
  • Watch less TV. Giving up one TV show gives you 30 minutes more in your day.
  • Combine physical activities with other things you like to do. For example, meet a friend for a walk instead of coffee.
  • Be physically active during your lunch break (before you eat) at least once or twice a week.
  • Make one of your next meetings or conference calls a walking meeting.

Not feeling well

  • Set a physical activity plan for the week as soon as you’re well enough to leave the house.
  • Start with a light week of activity after you’ve been sick so you don’t get too tired.
  • Slowly work your way back to your usual physical activity levels.

Bored with exercise

  • Switch between two or three types of aerobic physical activity, such as walking, dancing and tennis.
  • Do your stretching, balance and flexibility activities while you watch TV.
  • Take a new route when you walk, bike or jog.
  • Include a friend or family member so physical activity becomes a social activity, too.
  • Try a new activity, like an aerobics class or a rowing machine.

Pain or injury

  • Switch to a type of activity that doesn’t bother the injured or painful area.
  • Try exercising in warm water, such as a pool or hot tub, if it’s arthritis pain.
  • See a health care professional for treatment. Ask what types of physical activities you can do.

On the road again…

  • Take workout clothes when you travel.
  • Use your hotel's health club or pool. If there isn't one, ask whether the hotel has guest privileges at a nearby health club.
  • Review the stretching and flexibility and strengthening exercises. All of these activities can be done in your hotel room.
  • Ask the hotel desk about nearby walking trails and enlist a traveling companion as a walking buddy.
  • During meeting breaks, walk around while checking and returning messages.

Frequently asked questions about physical activity

Q: Is physical activity safe for people with heart problems?

A: For most people with heart conditions, physical activity is not only safe, it's part of the treatment! Be sure to talk with your health care team before you start your physical activity program and follow medical advice.

Q: What if I can't find time to be physically active?

A: Break up your physical activity into a few short sessions throughout the day. Other things you can do:

  • Enjoy physical activity on weekend days when you may have more time.
  • Consider buying a secondhand stationary bike or treadmill so you can be physically active while you watch TV.
  • Plan your physical activity schedule for the entire week and mark off the time on your calendar.

Q: Can people with heart disease lift weights?

A: Yes, most people with heart disease can lift weights. But if you had surgery, it's important for you not to push, pull, twist or lift more than five pounds for up to six weeks after your procedure. You can start with weights weighing about one pound and work up to heavier weights as you get stronger.

Q: How can I include more physical activity in my life?

A: You can add physical activity to your daily life in many ways:

  • Use your coffee breaks to take five- to 10-minute walks if you have a desk job.
  • Park your car as far away as you can and walk to your destination.
  • Use a pedometer to count how many steps you take each day. Some health and fitness experts recommend increasing your daily step count by 1,000 steps each week until you reach 10,000 steps a day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

Find more ways to include physical activity in your day.