A leaky heart valve, or a diagnosis of valvular heart disease, does not mean a person cannot exercise. Several gentle exercises are generally safe for someone with a leaky heart valve and can provide health benefits.

A leaky heart valve describes when the valves in the heart do not close tightly enough to prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction. Without treatment, it can lead to some potentially serious health complications, such as heart failure or a sudden heart attack.

A person with a leaky heart valve may experience symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath. These symptoms may make an individual question if they can or should exercise. However, exercise can help prevent future heart and overall health issues and help with recovery if someone needs heart valve replacement surgery.

That said, it is important to note that a person should consult a doctor before starting any new exercise program. A healthcare professional can help tailor a program for their needs and help monitor their overall health.

In this article, we will suggest some generally safe exercises that a person with a leaky heart valve may find useful.

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Walking is often an effective, low impact activity that many people can start with. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a person walk fast enough to make their breathing a bit heavier and faster but still be able to maintain a conversation with another individual.

In addition to a dedicated time to walk briskly, a person can plan additional walking into their day. Some examples include:

  • walking a dog
  • taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • walking to the mailbox
  • parking farther from a store

Health experts generally consider swimming a light to moderate exercise that many people living with a leaky heart valve may do safely. Swimming is a no impact exercise, meaning it is generally safe on the joints and may be helpful for those also living with arthritis or other injuries.

The main disadvantage of swimming is that it is not easily available for everyone. However, some local gyms, health spas, and physical therapy facilities may have pools for members to use.

Before starting, it is advisable to discuss swimming with a doctor, as this activity can be a bit more intense than walking and some other forms of physical activity.

Yoga involves controlled movements and stretches. Many people find the activity both mentally and physically beneficial.

It is also a suitable option for beginners since every move and position has modifications. When taking a class, a person can ask the instructor for adjustments if a particular move is too challenging.

Yoga can help improve cardiovascular health and yield several other potential benefits, such as:

  • flexing and stretching muscles
  • injury protection
  • improved energy
  • increasing muscle tone
  • stress reduction
  • improved balance

Cycling provides a continuous and rhythmic action, particularly on a stationary exercise bike. The activity can provide many possible health benefits, including:

However, a person needs to take care to start easy and work their way up. They may want to avoid programs that suddenly increase intensity as this could cause a sudden rise in heart rate.

Stretching is a low impact exercise that can help improve flexibility. It is often advisable for a person to stretch before engaging in other activities, such as walking. As such, it can be an easy option for people to incorporate into their activities.

Stretching may also help a person reduce their stress levels. According to the AHA, reducing stress can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Strength training, which can include lifting weights or using body weight, can provide the body with various benefits, which may include improving heart health.

However, like other forms of exercise, a person should avoid overstraining. Lifting a weight that is too heavy can cause strain, putting an additional spike of pressure on the heart and causing blood flow issues.

Lifting light to medium weights may be a suitable option for a person. A person may wish to consult with a personal trainer or physical therapist for exercises that may be safe for them.

Several light to moderate exercises may be safe and effective for a person with a leaky heart valve or other underlying heart issues. However, before starting any new exercise program, individuals need to consult a doctor to discuss what is safe for them.

Most people should find options, such as walking, stretching, swimming, yoga, cycling, and strength training, safe and effective for improving their overall health and well-being.