Working out post-heart attack is actually essential for recovery.
If you’ve experienced a heart attack, getting back into a fitness routine may seem scary—especially if you’ve ever felt heart disease symptoms during exercise. “A most common concern for a person after a heart attack about exercise is having another heart attack. And studies have shown that that risk is very low,” says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
In fact, in many cases doctors recommend that heart attack survivors get more physical activity after their cardiac event than they did before their heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. “After a heart attack it is even more important to exercise, because this is how you will regain the strength of your heart,” says Joan Pagano, an exercise physiologist in New York City.
As essential as it is to exercise after having a heart attack, it’s equally important to build your strength slowly, and listen to your body and doctor. “The risk of exercising after a heart attack are that you do too much too soon. You need to have a gradual progression starting with a cardiac rehab program. They would guide you into a regular fitness training program,” says Pagano.
Ease Into Exercise with Cardiac Rehab
One of the best things you can do after your heart attack is join a cardiac rehabilitation program. “During cardiac rehab, they don’t just watch and monitor the patients doing exercise on the treadmill or on the bicycle, but they also provide counseling and nutritionists that can really get them on the right path,” says Rachel Bond, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Cardiac rehabilitation provides everything you need to stay healthy after a heart attack—all in one place:
- Exercise counseling and training: “Cardiac rehabilitation exercise entails multi-station exercise, meaning that you go on a bicycle, a treadmill, [and] do weight training. The exercise program is about an hour and that helps people to gain confidence to re-enter exercise after they graduate, you know, go back to some of their regular activities,” says Dr. Goldberg.
- Education for heart-healthy living: Your cardiac rehab healthcare team will help you manage your heart disease risk factors, reduce stress, and adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- Help with your condition: Going to cardiac rehab can help you better understand your condition and medications, as well as your progress toward getting healthier.
The Best Post-Heart Attack Exercises
“The best kinds of exercise after a heart attack are moderate types of exercise,” says Pagano. Moderate-intensity cardio exercises include walking, swimming, and cycling. “Once you get your doctor’s clearance, you can experiment with the pace that you’re walking at so that you can challenge yourself to a safe level,” she says.
“It’s important to really get to know your body post-heart attack. If you experience any unusual symptoms, like profuse sweating, maybe when you’re not working out so hard, dizziness, lightheadedness, or any kind of chest pain … you need to stop the exercise and speak to your doctor,” says Pagano.
Dr. Goldberg is a cardiologist and medical director of the NYU Langone Health Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health.Joan Pagano
Joan Pagano is an exercise physiologist in New York City.Rachel Bond
Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:02,337
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A most common concern for
00:00:03,838 --> 00:00:08,600
a person after a heart attack about
exercise is having another heart attack.
00:00:08,600 --> 00:00:11,765
And studies have shown that
that risk is very low.
00:00:11,765 --> 00:00:17,600
00:00:17,600 --> 00:00:21,604
After a heart attack, it is even
more important to exercise than before,
00:00:21,604 --> 00:00:24,317
because this is how you
will regain the strength of
00:00:24,317 --> 00:00:27,030
We recommend that initially
00:00:27,030 --> 00:00:30,530
after the hospital,
people walk until they see their doctor.
00:00:30,530 --> 00:00:34,720
And usually we recommend they
join cardiac rehabilitation.
00:00:34,720 --> 00:00:40,910
Cardiac rehabilitation exercise
entails multi-station exercise,
00:00:40,910 --> 00:00:45,170
meaning that you go on a bicycle,
a treadmill, do weight training.
00:00:45,170 --> 00:00:47,440
The exercise program is about an hour.
00:00:47,440 --> 00:00:51,661
And that helps people to
gain confidence to re-enter
00:00:51,661 --> 00:00:55,974
exercise after they graduate,
go back to some of their
00:00:55,974 --> 00:00:57,983
00:00:57,983 --> 00:01:01,650
what they do during cardiac rehab
is they don't just watch and
00:01:01,650 --> 00:01:05,962
monitor the patients doing exercise
on the treadmill or on the bicycle.
00:01:05,962 --> 00:01:09,877
But they also provide counseling and
nutritionists that get them
00:01:09,877 --> 00:01:13,090
really on the right path.
The risks of exercising
00:01:13,090 --> 00:01:16,260
after a heart attack are that
you do too much too soon, so
00:01:16,260 --> 00:01:21,280
you need to have a gradual progression,
starting with the cardiac rehab program.
00:01:21,280 --> 00:01:24,820
And they would guide you into
a regular fitness training program.
00:01:24,820 --> 00:01:28,830
The best kinds of exercise after a heart
attack are moderate types of exercise.
00:01:28,830 --> 00:01:31,260
Always good walking,
whether you're walking on a treadmill or
00:01:31,260 --> 00:01:32,790
you're walking outside.
00:01:32,790 --> 00:01:36,760
Once you get your doctor's clearance,
you can experiment with the pace that
00:01:36,760 --> 00:01:41,020
you're walking at, so that you can
challenge yourself to a safe level.
00:01:41,020 --> 00:01:45,250
Swimming is always good, cycling,
all of the aerobic activities.
00:01:45,250 --> 00:01:47,530
The one you will do is
the best exercise for you.
00:01:47,530 --> 00:01:51,780
It's important to really get to
know your body post-heart attack.
00:01:51,780 --> 00:01:54,490
If you experience any unusual symptoms,
00:01:54,490 --> 00:01:59,840
like profuse sweating,
maybe when you're not working out so hard.
00:01:59,840 --> 00:02:02,592
Or dizziness or lightheadedness, or
00:02:02,592 --> 00:02:06,806
any kind of chest pains that
you know that this is unusual,
00:02:06,806 --> 00:02:11,365
and that you need to stop the exercise and
speak to your doctor.
00:02:11,365 --> 00:02:17,343
Heart Attack Recovery FAQs. American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 13, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Recovery-FAQS_UCM_303936_Article.jsp#.Wqf41ZPwaL5)
What Can I Expect in Cardiac Rehab? American Heart Association. (Accessed on March 13, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/What-Can-I-Expect-In-Cardiac-Rehab_UCM_487777_Article.jsp#.Wqf47ZPwaL4)