Can you exercise safely if you have heart disease? This study will answer that for you

Exercise is the cure-all for most physical and mental health ailments. But, is it okay for people with heart problems to work out? The answer is a big YES.
heart disease and exercise
Is exercising a good idea for a heart patient? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
ANI Published: 31 Aug 2020, 11:50 am IST
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Exercising is the best way to keep your physical health in a good shape. Apart from keeping you physically fit, exercise also uplifts your mood and is a great way to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. So you can think of exercising as a magical fix for your physical and mental health.

But a big question remains: is exercising good for people with heart diseases? A study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and published in the journal the European Heart Journal has the answer!

The study says that physical activity is good for everyone with heart disease and the chances of exercise triggering a cardiac arrest or heart attack is extremely low.

“The chance of exercise triggering a cardiac arrest or heart attack is extremely low. People who are completely inactive and those with advanced heart disease should consult their doctor before taking up sports,” said Professor Sanjay Sharma, Chairperson of the guidelines Task Force and professor of sports cardiology and inherited cardiac diseases, St George’s, University of London, UK.

“With rising levels of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, promoting physical activity is more crucial now than ever before. Regular exercise not only prevents heart disease but also reduces premature death in people with established heart disease,” adds Professor Antonio Pelliccia, Chairperson of the guidelines Task Force and chief of cardiology, Institute of Sports Medicine and Science, Rome, Italy.

How much exercise is enough?
Healthy adults of all ages and people with heart disease should exercise on most days, totalling at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Moderate intensity means increasing your heart rate and breathing rate but still being able to hold a conversation.

Keep your heart healthy with regular exercise. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

For people who are obese or have high blood pressure or diabetes, the study recommends strength-building exercises, for example, lifting light weights at least three times a week plus moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise, such as cycling, running, or swimming.

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. If the arteries become completely blocked this can cause a heart attack. Most people with coronary artery disease can play competitive or amateur sports.

In such a situation Professor Pelliccia suggests, “People with long-standing coronary artery disease who wish to take up exercise for the first time should see their doctor first. The aim is to tailor the intensity of activity according to the individual risk of causing an acute event such as a heart attack.”

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Regular, moderate physical activity is recommended to prevent the most common heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation who are taking anticoagulants to prevent stroke should avoid contact sports due to the risks of bleeding.

People with pacemakers should not be discouraged from playing sports (except collision sports) because of the device. However, they need to tailor their choice according to the underlying disease.

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You need help when…
Professor Pelliccia noted that anyone experiencing chest pain for more than 15 minutes should call an ambulance. He added: “If you find that exercise brings on palpitations or unusual shortness of breath or chest discomfort, scale back your activity and make an appointment to see your health professional.”

Professor Sharma concluded that, “Physical activity is good for everyone with heart disease and even small amounts are beneficial. We hope these guidelines will help patients and their health professionals choose the best and most enjoyable activities for them.”

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