Exercise Benefits Heart Transplant Patients

Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, and this is true for heart transplant patients as well as people who have not undergone surgery. A heart transplant patient can begin to start working with a physical therapist shortly after the surgery has been performed.

Physical activity is important for people recovering from a heart transplant because it helps to prevent blood clots and lung infections. Patients who are up and moving as soon as possible following surgery are less likely to develop painful bed sores as well.

Getting up and moving shortly after the procedure helps a heart transplant patient to gain strength. He or she may not have been able to exercise before the surgery because of health issues, and now is the time to start developing a healthier lifestyle.

Exercise Program While in Hospital

While a heart transplant patient is in hospital, he or she will continue to work with a physical therapist. A progressive program will be developed to help the patient build strength and endurance.

Breathing exercises are the first item on the list, and can be done while the patient is still in bed. These are simple, but a very important part of the recovery process since they help to prevent lung infections. The physical therapist or the nurse will instruct the patient to take a deep breath and then push the air out of his or her lungs.

Exercises for the legs and feet are also part of the exercise program for heart transplant patients. Performing these motions helps with blood circulation and helps to prevent blood clots from forming. Examples of leg and foot exercises include:

  • Wiggling the toes
  • Pointing the foot toward the face
  • Bending the knees upward
  • Rotating legs at the hip joint
  • Tightening and releasing muscles in legs and buttocks


Exercise for Heart Transplant Patients

  • Do include a warm-up in the routine.
  • Do push through to a period of intense physical activity and maintain this level for several minutes to give the heart a good workout. Aerobic activities like swimming, cycling and walking are good choices.
  • Do cool down for a few minutes after exercise by stretching or doing some walking.
  • Do check with your doctor before starting or changing your exercise program.


  • Don’t lift anything weighing more than 10 lb. for the first eight weeks following the surgery.
  • Don’t push or pull objects weighing 10 lb. or more unless your doctor or nurse gives you the go-ahead to do so.
  • Don’t do pull-ups, pushups or pull-ups.
  • Don’t continue performing any activity that causes pain or pulling in the chest area.