After having a heart attack, it is important to begin a regular activity program to reduce the chance of having additional heart problems. Your doctor will let you know when it is the right time to begin an exercise program. Most patients are given a prescription for cardiac rehabilitation. Patients who join cardiac rehabilitation programs have a faster and safer recovery and better outcomes after a heart attack.
People recover at different paces. This may be related to your activity level before your heart attack or the amount of damage to your heart muscle. It may take months to develop the optimal exercise program. Here are some general guidelines to get started.
- Start slow and gradual walking pace over 3-5 minutes until the activity feels moderate (slightly increased breathing, but should still be able to talk with someone). If you feel too short of breath, slow down your walking pace.
- If walking outside, walk with someone or in short distances close to home so you do not get too far away and have a hard time walking home.
- Chose an activity that you enjoy such as walking (outside or on a treadmill), stationary cycling, rowing or water aerobics.
- Talk with your doctor before lifting weights.
- Exercise should be done regularly to gain the benefits; national guidelines suggest most days of the week.
- Try to exercise at the same time every day to establish a habit and to minimize any variables that may impact your exercise (timing of meals, medications, work schedule, etc.)
- If you have any symptoms such as excessive shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations that do not go away or increasing fatigue, stop your exercise and contact your doctor.
- After a heart attack thing may have changed including energy level and medications. These may affect your exercise tolerance. Keep your exercise expectations day to day as you go through the healing process.
- Enroll in an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program to help with developing an exercise program and assist with lifestyle changes such as heart healthy diet, quitting smoking, weight loss and stress management. Cardiac rehabilitation is covered by most insurance companies for patients after a heart attack.