Cardiac Disease and Exercise

If I have a heart condition what should I do before I start exercising?

If you have a heart condition it is always important to consult your Cardiologist or General Practitioner before undertaking a new physical activity routine. The important thing to remember is that any physical activity is generally better than none and in most circumstances it is more beneficial to remain physically active than not.

 If you have had medical advice regarding your capacity to be active that should provide a good guide about what you can be working toward. You may need some specialist advice to accommodate your individual requirements and your GP or cardiologist may advise you to see an Exercise Physiologist or a Physiotherapist.

 The Heart Foundation of Australia (www.heartfoundation.org.au) website provides information on the benefits and general guidelines of physical activity for your heart and overall health.

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I did not exercise before my heart condition. Can I start now?

Absolutely.  After seeking physical activity guidelines from your medical specialist it is important to start thinking about what level of physical activity is appropriate for you.

Your general condition may alter or improve over time – your doctor should be able to give you a good ongoing guide of this.

Regular, moderate physical activity is great for your mental, physical and overall heart health.  
— The Heart Foundation

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (The Australian Department of Health 2017 for adults) recommend:

●      Any physical activity is better than none.  Start with a little and build up.

●      Be active on most days, preferably most days every week.

●      Aim for regular, variable moderate intensity or vigorous intensity physical activity each week depending on your age and individual circumstances.

●      Do muscle strengthening or balance activities on at least 2 days each week (as guided by your medical specialist).

Theses guidelines are adjusted for varying ages and may be useful for you. Feel free to read more at the link below.


Why or when should I not exercise?

It is important not to commence an exercise or increased physical activity program until you have received clearance to do so. 

In the case of some heart or other medical conditions a period of recovery and rehabilitation or observation will be suggested as a means of ensuring your safety to commence or increase physical activity.  You may have other medical conditions that need to be accommodated in the type of physical activity and rehabilitation you undertake.

Also be mindful of not exercising beyond recommendations or modifying your intensity when:

●      recovering from a viral or bacterial illness,

●      when you are feeling unwell or very tired

●      in weather conditions that you are unaccustomed to

●      In conditions that may be unsafe such as when using inappropriate or unfamiliar equipment, or if exercising in the dark

●      If your hydration or nutrition is not adequate 

●      While you are adjusting to the effects of new medications.   

I don’t like exercising – why should I do it?

The Heart Foundation promotes regular, moderate physical activity as beneficial for your mental, physical and overall heart health. So why wouldn’t you be active?

Physical Activity can be viewed as any activity that gets your body moving.  YFrom a practical point of view, undertaking physical activity that you enjoy and is able to be incorporated into your regular routine is likely to be easier to maintain. You can be physically active in many variable ways. Engaging in physical activity could involve being part of a Bushcare group, walking groups (local councils and the Heart Foundation are great places to start if you wish to be part of a physical activity community group),  volunteering in the community, gardening, attending regular classes with friends, walking extra distances during your normal commutes, completing daily chores or any other activities you enjoy.

 

It can also be beneficial to give yourself an adjustment time and not always expect to be totally positive about undertaking regular exercise right at the beginning.  It will get easier with time.

The types and intensity of physical activity or exercise you undertake should be appropriate for your age, individual medical needs and abilities.

What is Sedentary Behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour is either sitting or lying down for a large part of the day with the exception of normal sleeping.

Many lifestyles encourage sedentary behaviour.  For example, sitting while travelling or driving a vehicle, working sitting at a computer and watching television are all sedentary behaviours.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour guidelines suggest that while people may do enough physical activity to meet the guidelines they still spend too much time in sedentary behaviours. So it is important to also consider how you might be able to reduce your sedentary behaviours as well.

Sedentary behaviour is associated with poorer health outcomes, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. You will benefit from minimising time spent sitting each day, and from breaking up periods of time being sedentary, as often as possible.
— Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (The Australian Department of Health 2017).

References

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (The Australian Department of Health 2017). http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Heart Foundation of Australia https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/active-living