Stay Active Each Day

People with heart failure often have a lot of questions about the safety and benefits of physical activity. This section provides some basic guidelines.

Benefits of Exercise

Even though you have heart failure, you CAN enjoy physical activity and exercise. In fact, you SHOULD stay active: a little exercise can make a big difference in your health. Here are a few of the benefits you can expect from regular activity:

  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep at night
  • Stronger muscles, so everyday tasks aren't as tiring
  • Help in maintaining your weight (or losing weight if needed)
  • Improved mood and outlook

The “Best” Exercise Plan

The best exercise plan is one that is tailored to your current health, habits, and interests. Make sure to speak with your healthcare providers before starting any activity or exercise plan. They can help you find an exercise level that's right for you. They may also tell you whether to avoid certain types of exercises.

Most people can choose from a range of safe activities and exercises. Daily walking, swimming, and biking are all great forms of exercise, and you can perform these activities at different levels of intensity to match your fitness level. Yet whether it's golfing or gardening, the key is picking activities that you enjoy. This way, you're more likely to be consistent with your physical activity - and motivated to continue over the long term.

Keep in mind that regular activity is your goal, and you should start off slowly and increase the time and level of activity gradually. You'll likely have good days and bad days, so you should listen to your body and learn your limits. Adjust your activities as needed.

Staying Safe While Exercising

What if you don't really know your physical limits yet? How can you be sure you're exercising safely?

First, you should follow your healthcare providers' general guidelines about the amount and type of activity that's right for you. Beyond that, you need to monitor your body's reaction to activity. Make sure that you can carry on a conversation during exercise, and that you're not exhausted the next day. Always include regular periods of rest in your daily schedule, and stop and rest whenever you feel tired or short of breath.

Stop exercising and consider calling your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat

Talk Your Walk

A good guideline to ensure you're exercising within your limits: make sure you can carry on a conversation during activity.

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