Your provider will tell you what exercise is best for you. Talk with your provider before you start a new exercise program. Also ask if it is OK before you do a harder activity.
Aerobic activity uses your heart and lungs for a long period of time. It also helps your heart use oxygen better and improves blood flow. You want to make your heart work a little harder every time, but not too hard.
Start slowly. Choose an aerobic activity such as walking, swimming, light jogging, or biking. Do this at least 3 to 4 times a week.
Always do 5 minutes of stretching or moving around to warm up your muscles and heart before exercising. Allow time to cool down after you exercise. Do the same activity but at a slower pace.
Take rest periods before you get too tired. If you feel tired or have any heart symptoms, stop. Wear comfortable clothing for the exercise you are doing.
During hot weather, exercise in the morning or evening. Be careful not to wear too many layers of clothes. You can also go to an indoor shopping mall to walk.
When it is cold, cover your nose and mouth when exercising outside. Go to an indoor shopping mall if it is too cold or snowy to exercise outside. Ask your provider if it is OK for you to exercise when it is below freezing.
Resistance weight training may improve your strength and help your muscles work together better. This can make it easier to do daily activities. These exercises are good for you. But keep in mind they do not help your heart like aerobic exercise does.
Check out your weight-training routine with your doctor first. Go easy, and do not strain too hard. It is better to do lighter sets of exercise when you have heart disease than to work out too hard.
You may need advice from a physical therapist or trainer. Either one can show you how to do exercises the right way. Make sure you breathe steadily and switch between upper and lower body work. Rest often.
You may be eligible for a formal cardiac rehabilitation program. Ask your provider if you can have a referral.
If you have symptoms, write down what you were doing and the time of day. Share this with your provider. If these symptoms are very bad or do not go away when you stop the activity, let your provider know right away. Your provider can give you advice about exercise at your regular medical appointments.
Know your resting pulse rate. Also know a safe exercising pulse rate. Try taking your pulse during exercise. This way, you can see if your heart is beating at a safe exercise rate. If it is too high, slow down. Then, take it again after exercise to see if it comes back to normal within about 10 minutes.
You can take your pulse in the wrist area below the base of your thumb. Use your index and third fingers of the opposite hand to locate your pulse and count the number of beats per minute.
Drink plenty of water. Take frequent breaks during exercise or other strenuous activities.
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Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.