Congestive Heart Failure Exercise Tips

Preventing heart disease and heart conditions is extremely important to a person’s health. Luckily there are a number of things you can do to prevent heart conditions such as congestive heart failure and to reduce the severity of existing heart conditions. These include eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

Getting regular exercise offers your body many benefits, including:

  • A Decrease in Heart Disease Risk Factors: Exercise lowers your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, lowers weight and reduces overall body fat.
  • An Improvement in Heart Health: Exercise helps the heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively, reduces your risk of death from heart disease and decreases your risk of chest discomfort and heart failure.
  • An Increase in Strength: Exercise improves balance, posture, flexibility, muscle tone and bone and joint health. It also reduces your risk of bone fractures.
  • An Increased Feeling of Well-Being: Exercise increases self-esteem and lessens symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Heart-Healthy Exercise Plans

Before beginning an exercise plan, make sure you talk with your doctor. She will be able to suggest exercises that are appropriate to your overall health, age, etc. You and you doctor should tailor a heart-healthy exercise plan to your needs and fitness level, making sure to include safe activities that you enjoy.

You should exercise regularly for maximum effect, building up to about 30 to 40 minutes per day. For less intensity, exercise can be broken up throughout the day into approximately 10-minute intervals. Aerobic exercise that increases breathing rate and depth and uses large muscle groups (walking briskly, swimming, etc.) is the most effective.

Each heart-healthy workout should include:

  1. Warm-Up: Warm-ups help ease people into exercise from rest, should be about five minutes long and can include stretching and the conditioning activity at a lower intensity.
  2. Conditioning: This is the main exercise and can vary in intensity depending on your fitness level. Conditioning should be done most days of the week for 30 to 40 minutes or in smaller increments that add up to 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day.
  3. Cool-Down: The cool-down phase allows the body to recover from conditioning and should last about five minutes. Cool-down activity can be the conditioning activity at a lower intensity or stretching exercises, much like the warm-up period.

Exercising at Home and at Work

To ease exercise into daily activities, there are a few changes that people can make at home, at the office and even during leisure activities and vacation.

At home, try:

  • doing housework or working in the garden
  • going for a short five- to 10-minute walk before each meal
  • parking farther away at the mall and other shops
  • walking or riding a bike to run errands
  • sitting up or riding a stationary bike while watching television
  • standing up or walking around while talking on the phone.

At work, try:

  • joining a gym near work to facilitate before- and after-work exercise sessions
  • participating in a sports team or recreational league at your company, or starting one if none exist
  • standing up while talking on the phone
  • taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • walking around during breaks and lunch hours
  • walking to coworkers’ offices to speak with them instead of phoning or e-mailing.

On weekends and vacations, try:

  • joining a recreational club
  • organizing sporty activities with a friend or a group
  • planning fun outings that include physical activity, like hiking, biking, kayaking or swimming
  • seeing the sites by walking or biking instead of driving
  • taking dance lessons.

Just a few small changes can make a huge difference for heart health and can help ease people into regular exercise routines.

Resources

American Heart Association (2007). Exercise for Your Health. Retrieved June 18, 2007, from American Heart Association Web site: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2155.

Cleveland Clinic (2004). Physical Activity in Your Daily Life. Retrieved June 18, 2007, from Cleveland Clinic Web site: http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartcenter/pub/guide/prevention/exercise/exercisehrt.htm.