Can I Exercise Having a Cardiac Condition?

Most of us are familiar with the benefits that exercise can provide to our overall health. But is it safe if you have a heart condition? This article will explore the benefits and special considerations when exploring safe exercise for heart health.

The importance of exercise for heart health

A review of studies on cardiovascular health summarized that regular exercise reduces inflammation and cholesterol levels, and improves cardiac function as well as overall heart health. When you engage in routine exercise, your resting heart rate and blood pressure decrease, meaning your heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body.

When it comes to cholesterol, it's essential for making hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that aid in food digestion. While the body produces the cholesterol it needs, it is also present in the foods we eat. Excess cholesterol can contribute to plaque formation in arteries, leading to narrow passageways for blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Physical exercise has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, contributing to better cardiovascular health. shown that exercise is recommended for people with cardiovascular disease.

Scientific studies and clinical guidelines also recommend exercise for people with cardiovascular disease. These recommendations may vary depending on the cardiovascular issue and have the best effect when tailored to the specific clinical situation.

Types of safe exercises for cardiac patients

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for all adults. This can be divided into 40-minute sessions and performed three to four days weekly. In addition to this, they also recommend that every adult performs resistance exercise strength training to maintain muscle strength and endurance. However, there are different recommendations for certain cardiac conditions.

Heart failure patients should start their exercise program slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity. One simple way to take up exercise when you're suffering from heart failure is to join a cardiac rehab class. Furthermore, around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise are recommended weekly. This time may be divided into short workouts of 10-15 minutes throughout the week.

According to the American Heart Association, people with atrial fibrillation should strive to reach 210 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. It is important to note that this does not apply to people who suffer from exercise-related atrial fibrillation.

For those, suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD), structured exercise therapy is highly recommended. This type of therapy is simply exercising with the supervision of a healthcare specialist, to tailor the exercise specifically to you. Usual physical activity recommended for those with PAD is walking at different paces with short breaks. These exercise sessions usually take from 30 to 45 minutes 3 times a week.

Physical exercise helps to improve heart health even for those living with cardiac disease. However it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider on exercise recommendations tailored specifically to you.

Creating a personalized exercise plan

The types of exercise you do can vary; the most important thing is that you are doing them. Try to pick an exercise that you enjoy doing it. This will help you stick with it.

Try mixing up your workouts from one day to the next to prevent yourself from getting bored. If you are starting to work out, start slowly and gradually increase the time and intensity of your workouts. This will help prevent injuries.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting a new workout routine as it may not be suitable for your condition.

Monitoring intensity and duration

Monitoring the intensity and duration of workouts when doing aerobic activity is essential. You can measure exercise intensity in two ways: based on how you feel and your heart rate.

Furthermore, the same exercise may have different intensity for each individual, for some, even a brisk walk may count as a moderate intensity exercise.

How you feel

Moderate exercise intensity. Your breathing becomes faster, but you are not out of breath. You lightly sweat after 10 minutes of working out. You are able to talk to someone while working out but can't sing.

Vigorous activity. Breathing is deep and rapid, and you start to sweat a few minutes after starting the activity. You have to pause for breath when trying to talk while doing the activity.

Overexerting yourself. You are short of breath, are in pain, and can't work out as long as you planned. These are all signs you may need to decrease your intensity because you overtired yourself to the extent it may be dangerous.

Heart rate

How fast your heart beats during exercise can also gauge your workout intensity. First, you must calculate your maximum heart rate, the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle. To do this, you subtract your age from 220.

Next, you will want to find your target heart rate zone, which is the zone in which you are exercising and conditioning the heart without overworking it. The American Heart Association recommends a moderate exercise intensity of 50–70% of your maximum heart rate and 70–85% of your maximum heart rate for vigorous activity.

It is highly recommended to discuss optimal way to monitor your exercise intensity with your healthcare specialist as the intensity may differ according to your physical condition and heart issues you are facing.

Warning signs to look out for during exercise

It is essential to listen to your body when working out and stop exercising if something doesn't feel right. You should feel comfortable while working out, aware of your breathing but not out of breath, slightly tired, dry to slightly sweaty, and relaxed. You should stop exercising and seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea

Considering the weather and outdoor temperature when exercising outdoors is also important. Take frequent water breaks to avoid dehydration. If it is hot outside, you should work out in the early morning or evening. If it is cold outside, dress in layers and cover your nose and mouth.

What are cardiac conditions?

The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and blood vessels. The system is rather complex, working with the lungs to oxygenate the blood and then pumping the oxygen-rich blood throughout the rest of your body.

In addition to providing oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, the heart also has an electrical system. This electrical system ensures that the heart beats with a consistent rhythm and rate. Sometimes heart may be damaged or affected by various factors and it may result in heart disease. Common conditions of the heart include the following:

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Plaque buildup, due to atherosclerosis, in the walls of coronary arteries (arteries supplying the heart) is known as coronary artery disease. This makes the artery narrower and reduces the amount of blood able to flow through the artery. Gradually this prevents the heart from receiving enough nutrients and oxygen.

Cerebrovascular disease

Cerebrovascular disease is another condition that is primarily caused by atherosclerosis. It affects the arteries that deliver blood to the brain. It can damage your brain in many ways: reduce or completely block the blood flow, cause bleeding or clot formation.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease occurs when one or more peripheral arteries become partially or completely obstructed, impeding blood flow in that area. This is more common in the lower limbs.


Atherosclerosis is a term used to describe plaque buildup in the arteries. The plaque is comprised of cholesterol, other lipids, calcium, cells, and blood clotting-related proteins such as fibrin. This results in the thickening of blood vessels and narrowing of the artery channel, leading to reduced blood flow and decreased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body. The arteries become stiff or rigid and prone to damage when this happens.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

Atrial fibrillation is a condition when the heart beats irregularly and sometimes very quickly. This may be asymptomatic in some patients but others may experience fluttering in the chest or other more general symptoms, such as sweating, dizziness or weakness. This can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, or other heart conditions.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when your heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should. When the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, it can negatively impact other organs. Heart failure can affect one or both sides of the heart.

The last words on exercising when having a cardiac condition

Exercising with a cardiac condition may raise valid concerns, but it is essential to help strengthen your heart. Taking special measures to monitor your heart rate and paying attention to how you feel during and after exercise can help ensure you work out at a level safe for your condition. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any special precautions or considerations before starting a new workout routine with a cardiac condition.


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