Exercise is very important to Heart Failure patients and this information has been provided by one of our experts Beth Baron. Beth is the Cardiac Practioner for the Burnley Healthy Lifestyle Team. She rehabilitates Heart Failure patients as well as other people with Coronary Vascular Disease.
Why Should I Be Active?
Activity may improve the functioning of your heart, by reducing the workload and enabling it to beat more efficiently. Regular activity will also help to keep the big muscles in your legs working efficiently taking some pressure off your heart and helping you with your balance. Keeping active will help improve your symptoms and could help to prevent your condition from getting worse. Exercise can also help improve the quality of your sleep, improve your mood and feel more positive about the future
So How Do I Start?
Before starting an exercise programme, or if you want to increase or change the type of exercise you do, talk to your doctor or nurse to make sure you are not putting too much strain on your heart too quickly. They will also be able to advise you which activities to avoid. They may be able to refer you to your local cardiac rehabilitation programme or healthy lifestyles team where they will be able to advise you on a suitable programme for low-intensity training.
Choose an activity that you enjoy, as you will be more likely to do it regularly. Exercising with a friend also helps, as you will be able to encourage each other. It is important to understand what you can do, if you didn’t go jogging before you had heart failure, you probably won’t be able to now you have heart failure.
Always warm up before doing any activity and always cool down afterwards. This will make sure that your coronary arteries have the opportunity to open up to allow more blood to deliver essential oxygen to your heart muscle. If you don’t do this you are at risk of your heart beating irregularly which could be dangerous. A qualified British Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation (BACR) instructor will be able to show you how to do this safely. If it is cold or windy outside, you should try and warm up before leaving the house. Try walking around for a couple of minutes as this will reduce the shock to your body when you go outside.
Walking is a good activity to start with. Try to walk every day by doing activities such as collecting the newspaper, or getting off the bus one stop earlier.
If you already walk and consider yourself physically active, try cycling or swimming – swimming is now considered to be safe for people with heart failure
provided that you condition is stable and you are not excessively breathless during gentle activity or breathless at rest. ALWAYS start slowly and gradually
increase the distance or intensity of the activity as your strength/fitness improves.
A good rule of thumb is that you should still be able to talk while you are exercising. If you are not able to talk, you are probably overdoing it. Stop exercising at once if you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, nausea or a cold sweat. If the symptoms persist, contact your doctor or nurse.
Try not to exercise straight after a large meal, or when you haven’t eaten for a long time. Plan to exercise 1-2 hours after a light meal.
Many people with heart failure worry that they will no longer be able to interact with their children or grandchildren by picking them up. Listen to the signals your body sends you. Activities that require holding your breath, bearing down or sudden bursts of energy are best avoided. If your grandchildren are no longer as light
as babies it may be more sensible for you to sit with them on your lap.
If you are inactive, you are more likely to have a heart attack than someone who is active. Being active provides long term benefits for your heart health and general health. It helps control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.
Studies suggest that being physically active in middle age can increase your life expectancy by two years, the same benefit as giving up smoking.
Your heart is a muscle and needs exercise to help it keep fit so that it can pump blood efficiently around your body.
It’s never to late to start
Everyone can benefit from getting physical – whatever your age, size or physical condition. Just remember that you are never too old or too unfit to start doing
The good news is that inactive people that start to do moderate physical activity feel the biggest health benefits. Your health risks will decrease as soon as you start to do more!
Some Top Tips for Staying Healthy
Being active is great for keeping your heart healthy and, along with eating a healthy diet, can help you to manage your weight and it’s not just good for your heart – physical activity also makes you look and feel great.
Adults should aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on five days or more a week. If you’re struggling to stay motivated, try these top tips to stay active:
Small changes add up
If 30 minutes of physical activity all at once seems like a lot to start with, try doing several short bouts of activity throughout the day.
Remember the positives
You’ll soon feel the benefits when you become more active. You’ll feel fitter, have more energy, be more relaxed and have more confidence.
Keep it real
Set yourself realistic goals that are specific and achievable. For example, set a goal to walk for 30 minutes every day or to learn how to swim.
Make a diary date
Plan a time to do some activity that fits in with the rest of your day and try keeping a diary to help monitor your progress and success. If you miss a day, don’t worry – just make sure that you start again the next day.
Keep on your toes!
Remember, everyday activities count so look for opportunities to be active during the day. For example, use the stairs instead of the escalators, walk to the local
shop rather than taking the car and do some stretches when watching TV. Every little counts!
Choose activities that you enjoy to help you achieve your goals and keep you motivated. Why not give ballroom dancing, tennis, trampolining, yoga or pilates a try?
Get a buddy
Involve friends and family to make activities more fun, sociable and enjoyable. Go jogging with a friend and support and motivate each other, take the children
swimming or join an exercise class.
Mix it up
Make a list of enjoyable activities, such as dancing, gardening and yoga and place them in a jar. Pick a different activity to do each week. By varying your activities, you are less likely to get bored and lose interest.
Prompt yourself to be more physically active by keeping reminders around the house. Put Post-it notes on the fridge or by the kettle, place your cycling helmet on
your dressing table or put your walking shoes near the door.
Check your progress
Use a pedometer to count your steps to show you how well you are doing. Walking is an ideal activity as it’s free and easy to do anywhere. You could walk your
children to school and back every day, take the dog for a walk or find a local park and go walking with a friend.
Recognise when you achieve your activity goals. Think of things that you could reward yourself with, like a copy of your favourite magazine, a new pair of trainers or a massage.