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How much should you exercise after you’ve had a heart attack? We asked a cardiologist

Published on:25 September 2021, 08:00am IST
Exercise is crucial for heart health, and we spoke to a specialist to understand how much exercising is permissible for a person who has had a heart attack.
Grace Bains
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An expert throws light on how much exercise one should do after suffering a heart attack. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Unfortunately, cardiovascular ailments such as a heart attack are a major cause of suffering for people across the world. It is caused mainly because of blockage due to accumulation of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels, preventing blood from flowing to the heart.

Its symptoms include chest discomfort and pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and irregular heartbeats. It is a serious condition that could lead to major complications such as heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, cardiac arrest, cardiogenic shock, and even death.

heart attack
Exercising will help you take care of your heart health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Recovery and exercising

The road to recovery for people who have suffered a heart attack is a delicate one, and needs to be charted with utmost care. One vital part of the recovery process is exercising, and is considered both as a preventive and mitigation measure, when it comes to heart ailments.

To better understand the role of exercising, and how much exercise is permissible post suffering a heart attack, we spoke to Dr Vishal Rastogi, Additional Director, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla, New Delhi.

Should people exercise after suffering a heart attack?

According to Dr Rastogi, heart attack patients, in recovery, should definitely exercise. He emphasized that for such people, exercising becomes all the more important due the following factors:

Risk factors for heart ailments have to be modified post an attack, and exercising is a great way to achieve that. Exercising will help prevent any future occurrence of heart attack, as it helps reduce blood pressure, manage weight, fight obesity, and control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. He added that, “people who exercise daily, improve their cardiac health by doing so.”

A heart attack takes a toll on your heart, making it weak. So, a person may feel shortness of breath or restlessness by doing the most mundane and low intensity activities. Therefore, training the heart muscles gradually through regular exercise is important, as it will help us function efficiently on a day-to-day basis.

heart attack
Patients of heart attack may exercise. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How much should one exercise?

Dr. Rastogi raised caution regarding the quantum and intensity of exercise for patients in recovery. He explained that for those people who were quite active before suffering a heart attack, would naturally like to get back to their fitness routine, but that’s not a good idea.

Remember the following

  • Different people have varied fitness levels
  • Each person’s heart is damaged in a distinct way post a heart attack
  • Analyse the symptoms during the recovery stage, and consult the treating doctor on how much exercise is permissible

As a general principle, he advised on not overdoing any physical activity or exercise. “Gradually build up the intensity, start from a 10 minute walk, and slowly reach a 45 minute mark per day,” said Dr. Rastogi. He stated that the ideal target should be to walk for 45 minutes per day, for 5 days a week.

He also recommended some other exercises, such as light jogging, swimming, and outdoor sports like badminton and tennis. He cautioned that these physical activities should only be taken if the person takes them slowly, does not exert unnecessarily, and builds the intensity in an incremental manner.

Supervised exercise program

There could be cases where the heart is abundantly weak and damaged. In some cases, the person might have undergone prolonged periods of hospitalisation, or experiences post heart attack breathlessness even while not doing any physical activity. Such people could opt for a supervised exercise program, explained Dr Rastogi. The person would have the assistance of a cardiac rehab specialist or a physiotherapist, who will monitor their heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure, while helping the person build strength gradually.

“Everybody who has had a heart attack must do exercise, but the level and intensity will differ for each person, which should be gradually built over a period of time,” concluded the expert.

Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.