|While exercise is important in maintaining good heart health, doing it safely and scaling up gradually remain extremely important.|
Dr Mitendra S Yadav
There’s a misconception among some people that exercise of any kind should be avoided if they are heart patients. On the contrary, regular exercise is critical if you have heart disease since physical activity strengthens heart muscles, helping one in managing cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Indeed, a regular, carefully-controlled exercise regimen can make you more active without causing chest pain or other symptoms of a heart ailment. What’s more, if you are diabetic, exercise will help you control blood sugar levels too – however, avoid walking in a fasting state. Moreover, do not walk immediately after a meal; keep a gap of at least an hour after meals. Over the months, regular exercise will ensure you lose weight, making you feel much better, physically and mentally.
For instance, daily walks will help you control knee problems while also making your bones strong. And other forms of aerobic exercises will strengthen your heart and lungs while boosting your body’s ability in using oxygen. In fact, your heart can benefit the most from aerobic exercise, which includes walking. Those suffering from blood pressure, however, should take their BP medication one hour before walking. Done over a prolonged period, aerobic workouts could decrease blood pressure and heart rate while improving your breathing too.
Some safety guidelines
Bear in mind, though, it’s important to consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen, ensuring every exercise you do is absolutely safe in your condition. This is crucial if you:
- Recently suffered a heart attack.
- Have been experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain or pressure.
- Underwent a heart surgery or procedure recently.
- Happen to be diabetic.
Your cardiac care provider will be best placed to recommend safe exercises, including the level of intensity that’s permissible. A 30-minute morning or evening walk five or six times a week should be safe initially. Over the weeks, depending upon how your body feels, you may increase the pace and time as required.
As mentioned earlier, aerobic activities (walking, light jogging, swimming, cycling or dancing) are good for your heart. But you need to begin slowly. Although the goal is to make one’s heart work somewhat harder each time, it’s best not to overdo the tempo.
Besides, always remember to warm up sufficiently by stretching or moving around at a slower pace for five minutes before gradually increasing the tempo. Towards the end of your aerobic activity, cool down by slowly decreasing the pace rather than ending the activity abruptly. Adequate warm-up and cool down will ascertain you do not sprain, overstrain or injure any muscles.
Additional safety tips while exercising:
- Take a break if you feel tired.
- If you feel fatigued or experience heart symptoms – STOP!
- Always wear comfortable, compatible clothing.
- In summers, exercise in the mornings or evenings only, wearing light clothing.
- In winters, always cover your nose and mouth when outdoors.
Workout within limits
If any activity overstrains your heart, you will experience symptoms such as:
- Chest pain
- Irregular pulse or heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
If you feel any or all of the above, stop immediately. Rest. Then consult your doctor, if necessary. Make notes of your resting and exercising pulse rate. During the latter, if it remains high, simply slow down. Then recheck it 10 minutes later to see whether it has returned to normal after exercising. Drink adequate amounts of water after exercising.
At any time if you feel pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in your chest, neck, jaw or arm; shortness of breath; numbness in the arms; are sweaty or lightheaded, it may be advisable to call the doctor. But if you follow the exercise guidelines mentioned above, you will remain safe and healthy while exercising.
The writer is Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Vimhans Nayati Super Speciality Hospital