Exercise After Heart Valve Surgery Part of Long-term Health Plan

Recovery after heart valve surgery can take some time, especially if the condition leading to surgery was present for some time. Aerobic exercise can be part of a recovery plan following heart surgery and getting physical offers a number of benefits to the patient.

The person who is up and moving after the procedure will have a lower heart beat, both at rest and when performing physical activities. The heart muscle pumps more efficiently, using less pressure to do so. Exercise also helps to keep blood vessel more elastic, and the patient is less likely to develop “hardening of the arteries.”

A heart valve surgery patient’s doctor will advise him or her about when to start exercising and how intense the workout should be. An individual recovering from heart surgery should discuss his or her specific medical situation with the doctor to develop a personalized exercise plan.

Training Program After Heart Valve Surgery

A good training program to follow after heart valve surgery will involve participating in exercise activities focusing on endurance. This type of workout is beneficial to heart surgery patients because it gets the heart rate up without a significant rise in the participant’s blood pressure.

Examples of endurance exercises include walking, running and cycling. Swimming, x-country skiing and inline skating are also good choices.

Activities to avoid following heart valve surgery include weightlifting or strength training using heavy weights, football, handball and windsurfing. Playing competitive badminton or squash is also considered too intense for people recovering from heart valve surgery.

To get the maximum benefit from this type of activity, the individual should plan to exercise three or four times per week. A session should last 30 minutes or more. If the patient has not been exercising regularly before surgery, he or she should start slowly and work up to this level of activity.

Intensity of Exercise After Heart Valve Surgery

A person recovering from heart valve surgery should take care to ensure that the intensity of his or her workout does not exceed 65 percent of his or her maximum physical performance. At this level, the patient’s body will burn fat as well as carbohydrates for energy while keeping the adrenalin and lactic acid levels low.

Training at a higher level of intensity means that adrenalin levels increase and the blood becomes thicker due to increased concentration of lactic acid. When this occurs, the blood is less able to take in oxygen, and there is no further benefit to working harder.

Before starting any type of exercise program after heart valve surgery, the patient should consult his or her doctor to ask about when to start exercising, how often to do so and which activities are best for his or her personal health situation.