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May 2020

Exercise Safe, Even Helpful, for Heart Failure

In heart failure, the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. People with this condition often feel winded and tired when they move around a lot. This can turn them off to exercise.

Staying fit improves day-to-day life

For years, experts weren't certain if physical activity and heart failure were a good mix. Some feared that it could be dangerous for people with this disease. But now, there is much more evidence that exercise is not only safe but also beneficial in many ways. Physical activity can help heart failure patients:

  • Improve muscle strength and endurance

  • Enhance abilities to perform daily activities (dressing, eating, walking, etc.) 

  • Reduce hospitalizations

  • Boost overall quality of life

Take these steps for a winning workout

If you have heart failure and you want to be more active, here are some strategies that will help you do so safely:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. Your level of recommended activity will depend on the stage of your heart failure.

  • Choose an appropriate activity. Two wise choices are riding a stationary bike and walking.

  • Ask your provider about strength training. Light free weights or resistance bands can help boost your muscle strength.

  • Increase your level of activity slowly. This is especially important if you haven’t been exercising regularly.

  • If you get very tired after exercising, rest the next day. But stop exercising and call your healthcare provider if you experience chest pain, become dizzy, or feel nauseous. You should also seek medical advice if you have shortness of breath that doesn’t get better when you slow down or stop activity.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2019
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