What Kind of Physical Activity Can I Do After a Heart Attack?

The amount and kind of physical activity you can do after a heart attack depends on different factors such as:

  • how healthy and active you were before your heart attack
  • the extent of your heart disease and heart damage
  • your age
  • the medications you may take
  • your personal interests.

Once you've gotten through the early period after the heart attack, your doctor will work with you to figure out how to be active within your limits. You will probably start slowly and then increase your activity to a moderate level. The best kinds of exercise are those that use your whole body, like walking, cycling, jogging and swimming.

Exercise Alert!

Be sensible and don't overdo it. Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms when you're exercising:

  • chest pain or pain in your arms
  • extreme shortness of breath
  • very fast heart beat or a sudden irregular heart beat
  • nausea, vomiting and /or cold sweats.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation programs help people with heart problems reduce their risk of a second heart attack and improve the overall quality of their lives. Most of these programs include a supervised exercise program, education about heart conditions, strategies to reduce risk factors and emotional and social support.

Many people are nervous to exercise on their own after a heart attack. If your cardiologist or family doctor doesn't recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program, ask for a referral!

For more information on cardiac rehabilitation, visit the Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation Web site.

For general information on keeping physically active you can refer to Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living.

Prepared by Alberta Health Services. This FAQ appeared originally on the Canadian Health Network Web site.

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