Strength Training for Heart Patients

Mild exercise is usually not considered harmful, and offers a number of health benefits to participants. While you may not necessarily need to see your doctor before you start a mild exercise program, there are times when you should make an appointment with your health care provider before you start working out.

Consult a physician before starting an exercise program if you:

1. Are middle-aged or an older adult who has not been active on a regular basis for some time and you are planning an aggressive exercise routine

2. Have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes

3. Are taking medication for a heart condition or high blood pressure

4. Have had chest pain within the past 30 days, or

5. Have experienced symptoms of angina (chest pain, tightness, or squeezing after exercising or when under emotional stress).

Strength Training and High-risk Heart Patients

Strength training, when combined with stretching and aerobic exercise, is part of a healthy lifestyle. It is not a good choice for people with any of the following medical conditions:

  • High blood pressure that is not being controlled with medication
  • Leaky heart valves
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
  • History of heart failure that has not been investigated and treated appropriately

Getting Started with Strength Training for Heart Patients

Once your doctor has given you the all clear to exercise, you will need to think about how to start strength training. If you haven’t been active up to this point, consider sticking to aerobic exercise exclusively for the first couple of weeks.

When you are ready to start strength training, it’s a good idea to get some direction from a personal trainer who has experience working with heart patients. Make sure you get instruction in the proper way to work with the weights and how to breathe correctly while doing so.

Your instructor should explain that you shouldn’t hold your breath while working out and that you should exhale as you lift the weight and take a breath when you are lowering it. Keeping your back straight while exercising is important, as is making controlled movements.

A person who has recently undergone heart surgery can start performing some range of motion exercises before being released from hospital. After four or six weeks, he or she can start an aerobic exercise program. After a couple of weeks of doing the aerobic workout, the patient should check in with his or her doctor check the sternum to evaluate the level of healing and to give the all-clear for strength training. Exercises that involves pulling in this region of the body should be avoided for approximately 90 days after surgery.

Consult with your doctor for guidelines for strength training for individual cases.

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