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ACTIVITY Guidelines for Heart Failure

Activity and exercise are good for you! Activity is moving your body such as putting on clothes and doing housework; exercise is planned activity to keep you fit and healthy. Both of these will help your heart to be stronger, lower your risk for health problems (like high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight), lessen shortness of breath, and lessen feelings of being tired, tense, or depressed. The more active you are, the sooner you will be able to start an exercise program.

Your doctor or nurse may talk with you about cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab). Nurses and therapists from Cardiac Rehab can help you learn more about heart failure and what types of activity are good for you, and they will help create an exercise plan just for you.

How do I get started?

Start by planning some activity each day, and add more as you can. Some ways to start may be:

  • March in place during commercials when watching TV
  • Walk slowly around your home for 2 minutes several times a day
  • Meet a friend for a walk indoors such as at a mall

How do I increase my activity level?

Try to work up to 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days per week. It doesn't have to be all at one time. Plan your sessions to include:

  • 5 minutes of warm up with stretches or a slower pace of walking or biking
  • 5 to 20 minutes of exercise
  • 5 to 10 minutes of cool down with stretches or a slower pace of the exercise

Exercise Tips

  • Choose activities that use the large muscles of the arms and legs. Walking, bicycling, and water aerobics are good options.
  • Make exercise a part of your daily schedule. Plan the exercise at a time in the day when you have the most energy.
  • You should feel that you are working a little hard during exercise.  Your breathing will be a bit faster and harder; your heart rate may increase, depending on the medicine you take; you may start to sweat; your muscles will feel a little tired.
  • Slow down or rest if you are too short of breath or find it hard to talk when you are exercising.
  • Breathe normally when you exercise. Do not hold your breath.
  • Keep an exercise record, so you can see how you improve.

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