Living with heart disease requires careful lifestyle management, and physical activity is an essential part of the regimen. Regular exercise helps strengthen the heart, improve circulation, and boost overall physical and mental health.

However, heart disease can impose certain limitations, and not all exercises are appropriate for people living with this condition. Engaging in the wrong type of exercise or pushing too hard can lead to serious health issues. Therefore, it is crucial to understand which exercises are safe and effective.

This guide outlines suitable forms of exercise for people with heart disease, from walking and gentle swimming to tennis and light cycling.

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Exercise is crucial to managing heart disease, providing numerous benefits that enhance cardiovascular health and overall well-being. Exercise is critical for:

  • improving cardiovascular function
  • managing weight
  • reducing stress
  • promoting mental well-being

Engaging in physical activity helps strengthen the heart muscle, making it more efficient at pumping blood and lowering the risk of a heart attack. It can also lead to lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels.

Moreover, exercise can help prevent the progression of heart disease by mitigating risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

While individuals with heart disease must approach physical activity cautiously, they can safely incorporate gentle exercises into their routines to support heart health. Guidelines recommend that people with heart disease exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes weekly.

Below are some of the recommended exercises for those with heart disease.

Learn more about heart disease.

Walking is a low impact, accessible exercise that is gentle on the heart and suitable for people of all fitness levels. It requires no special equipment, and a person can do it almost anywhere, making it a convenient and enjoyable option for many.

Individuals can easily adjust the pace and distance to match their fitness levels, ensuring a personalized and manageable workout.

A large meta-analysis of over 220,000 participants has shown that the more people walk, the greater the health benefits. For instance, the risk of dying from any cause, including cardiovascular disease, decreases significantly with every 500 to 1,000 additional steps walked each day.

People who are unfit or new to exercise should start with short, manageable walks on flat terrain. Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of these walks can help improve fitness levels safely and effectively.

Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that minimizes joint strain while providing a full-body workout.

Gentle swimming, such as slow-paced laps or water aerobics, improves heart function, builds endurance, and enhances muscle strength. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on the body, making it ideal for anyone with joint issues.

Jogging involves running at a steady, moderate pace that is slower than running but faster than walking. The pace should allow individuals to maintain a conversation without becoming overly breathless.

This form of aerobic exercise benefits individuals with heart disease who have a higher fitness level and have no other health issues. People should speak with a health professional before beginning a new jogging regimen to ensure it is a safe and suitable option for them.

People should begin with a warmup, including light stretching or walking, to prepare their muscles and heart for exercise. They should also start slowly and gradually increasing the pace and distance to avoid overexertion. A heart rate monitor can help track exertion levels and maintain a safe intensity.

Brisk walking elevates the heart rate more than regular walking and provides a moderate intensity cardiovascular workout.

Incorporating brisk walking into a daily routine can bring significant health benefits, such as improved heart health and reduced cholesterol levels.

To achieve these advantages, people should aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week.

Tennis is an engaging racket sport that a person can play with several others. It offers both aerobic and anaerobic exercise benefits, making it a well-rounded physical activity.

Playing tennis involves periods of running, jumping, and lateral movements, which significantly improve cardiovascular health, coordination, and agility. Tennis also enhances muscular strength and endurance through the diverse range of motions required during play, such as serving, volleying, and groundstrokes.

Tennis lowers the risk of dying from heart disease and is particularly good for protecting vascular endothelial function, which is crucial for maintaining healthy blood vessels.

To minimize the risk of injury, people should play tennis at a comfortable intensity level and take regular breaks as needed. Additionally, wearing supportive shoes can help prevent injuries.

Light cycling is a beneficial, low impact exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness and overall health. It strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, and enhances circulation without putting excessive strain on the joints, making it ideal for individuals with arthritis or recovering from injury.

Proper equipment is essential for safe and comfortable cycling. People should adjust the bike to fit their height and consider using a comfortable saddle to prevent discomfort during longer rides. Wearing a helmet is crucial for outdoor cycling to protect against potential accidents.

People should check with a healthcare professional to see if they can safely begin cycling and to plan a safe and effective routine according to their health needs and capabilities.

Managing heart disease involves lifestyle changes, medical treatments, and regular monitoring. In addition to regular exercise, other crucial aspects of heart disease management include:

  • Diet: consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats
  • Medication: taking prescribed medications as directed to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and other heart-related conditions
  • Stress reduction: engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or hobbies
  • Regular check-ups: scheduling regular appointments with a healthcare professional to monitor heart health and adjust treatments as needed
  • Quit smoking: quitting smoking, if applicable, by calling the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848) for help and support, as smoking damages and tightens blood vessels

Engaging in appropriate exercises can significantly improve the health and well-being of individuals with heart disease.

Walking, gentle swimming, jogging, brisk walking, tennis, and light cycling are beneficial when performed correctly and with medical guidance.

Alongside exercise, a comprehensive heart disease management plan that includes a balanced diet, medication, stress reduction, and regular check-ups is essential for maintaining optimal heart health.