Your Heart and Exercise

Alpine Cardiology seniors exercising in swimming pool




Your doctor will tell you what exercise is best for you that will help your heart and are safe for you. They will also advise you on things to watch for and what you should do if you experience heart symptoms.

Your Heart and Exercise

Alpine Cardiology senior athletes exercising on step platforms at gymGetting regular exercise is a major step toward good heart health. Physical activity can strengthen the heart muscle, manage blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is also an effective way of keeping your weight under control.

Exercise is important whether you have heart disease or want to prevent it. The activity doesn’t have to be hard. Any activity that raises your heart rate can help your heart. Do an activity at a level that is right for you and that you enjoy.

Moderate Level

If you choose moderate activity, aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Moderate activity would include brisk walking, brisk cycling, or dancing. Even daily chores that raise your heart can be included. You want your heart beating faster.

Vigorous Level

Alpine Cardiology senior cyclistIf you choose vigorous activity, aim for 25 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Experts recommend at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Vigorous activity would include jogging, fast cycling, or cross-country skiing. You breathe more rapidly and heart beats much faster with vigorous activity.

Any Movement is Good for your Heart

Any activity is better than none. If you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try a few 5 or 10-minute walks instead. Brief bouts of activity do offer benefit. Being active for short periods of time during the day add and can provide health benefits.

Sitting too much can have a negative impact on your health. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. Remember that your goal is to make regular physical activity a part of your heart healthy lifestyle.


The Best Exercises to Strengthen your Heart

Talk with your health care team about which exercises are best for you. Along with advice from your doctor you may consider working with a physical therapist or trainer. They can show you proper exercise strategies to reduce fatigue and the possibility of injury from over doing it. You may also want to talk to your doctor to see if you may be eligible for a formal cardiac rehabilitation program.

Different types of exercise are needed to provide complete fitness. Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health. Flexibility may not contribute directly to heart health; it serves an important role in providing a good foundation for participating in aerobic and strength building activities more effectively.

Aerobic Exercise

Alpine Cardiology Senior couple cross-country skiing.Aerobic exercise improves circulation, and this helps in lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Increasing your overall aerobic fitness will help with how well your heart pumps and delivers oxygen to your body. Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, if you already live with diabetes, it can help you control your blood glucose.

Aerobic Exercise includes walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, jumping rope, mowing the lawn. You can choose the level previously mentioned that is right for you. Regardless of whether you choose a slower or faster pace, the goal is to get your heart pumping.

Resistance/Strength Training

Alpine Cardiology Senior people with trainer using resistance band doing exercises at the gymResistance or strength training may improve your strength and help your muscles work together better. This can make daily activities easer and build muscle and burn fat. It may also help with flexibility and stability (balance).

Research show that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

You should try for at least 2 nonconsecutive days per week of resistance/strength training. You may choose to work with free weights (such as hand weights, dumbbells, or barbells), or on weight machines. Resistance band are effective way to build strength with many exercises able to perform in a sitting position. Body resistance exercises such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups can be added as well.

Stretching, Flexibility and Balance

Alpine Cardiology senior woman stretching at homeStretching before exercise is important to warm up your muscles and heart. This benefits musculoskeletal health which helps you stay flexible and free from joint pain. Stretching may also help with cramping and other muscular issues. Flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls as well.

Talk to your doctor to see if she recommends basic stretches you can do at home. You can also look for DVDs or YouTube videos to follow. Tai Chi and Yoga are great for your heart health and will help you strengthen you muscles and increase flexibility.

Other Benefits of Regular Exercise

Being active does more than just keep your heart healthy. It keeps your body and mind health too.

Alpine Cardiology Senior woman exercising with a hula hoopThe added benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Mental well-being
  •  Stress relief
  • Increased bone strengths (if you are doing weight bearing exercises)
  • Control blood sugar
  • Lose or control you weight
  • Increase energy
  • Help you sleep better

Alpine Cardiology Senior drinking water after exercisingAdditional Recommendations

  • Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise or physical activity.
  • Start slowly and at a level you are comfortable with.
  • If you feel tired or have any heart symptoms, stop, and rest.
  • Wear comfortable clothing for the activity you are doing.
  • During warmer weather exercise in the morning or evening when exercising outside.
  • In colder weather cover your nose and mouth when exercising outside
  • If you prefer inside, go to a gym, and use the treadmills or walk inside a mall.
  • Drink plenty of water.

It is Never too Late to Start

Alpine Cardiology smiling senior sportsman exercising with dumbbell at gymIt is never too late to make physical activity part of your life. If you are healthy, it can help you keep your heart as healthy as possible. If you have had a heart attack or stroke, being active is very important to help prevent another one.

Regular activity might also help your heart if you do have a heart attack. It may increase the number of smaller blood vessels that connect different coronary arteries. These are called collateral blood vessels. If one of the major coronary arteries is suddenly blocked, these collateral blood vessels serve as an alternate route to supply blood to the portion of the heart muscle that is threatened by a heart attack. This gives you time to seek medical attention and increases your chance of surviving.

Talk to your Doctor

Tell your doctor if you are having trouble making activity part of your daily life. She may refer you to someone who specializes in helping people make lifestyle changes. If you have been exercising and find that you are not able to as much as you used to let your health care team know.

Studies indicate that pairing a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way not only to prevent heart disease, but to reverse some risk factors. Talk to your doctor to about activities and diet that will increase your heart health.

Tips for heart patients in the heat

Seniors with granddaughter walking outdoors. People in summer.


If you are a heart patient, especially if you are older than 50 or overweight, you should take special precautions in the heat.

Healthy Senior Couple Exercising In Garden TogetherBefore starting an exercise routine check with your healthcare professional and discuss any concerns you may have. You also want to talk about the medication you are on. Certain heart medications like beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics (which deplete the body of sodium) can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.

Whether you are on medications or not, older people should take care in the heat. If you are going to be outside, it is important to drink water even if you do not think you need it. At the point you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Everyone can maintain an active and healthy lifestyle regardless of the temperature outside, just make sure you take the proper precautions.


senior walking exerciseTips for everyone

Ready to brave the heat? It is best to avoid the outdoors in the early afternoon (around noon – 3pm). The sun is usually at its strongest and puts you at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses. Early in the day or evenings are great times to get outside and walk, garden, swim, or any outdoor activities. You can also take advantage of air-conditioned facilities like a mall or indoor track to walk when temperatures soar. Remember the buddy system, exercising with a friend is fun and safer.

More tips for staying comfortable and safe in the heat.


Something many do not think of is that we sweat a lot in our shoes. You want well-ventilated shoes and socks that repel perspiration. Keeping your feet comfortable in the heat makes for a more enjoyable time outside.

Dressing for the heat is important. You want to wear lightweight and light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton. Synthetic fabric that repels sweat is a great option too.

Active and sporty senior couple engaging in healthy sports activiesDo not forget to protect your head and eyes. A stylish hat will not only look great but protect your scalp and provide some shade for your face. Sunglasses are important to protect your eyes from the sun. Use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 to any exposed skin and reapply it every two hours.

Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate! Drink water before, during and after you go out in the heat. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages both can contribute to dehydrated.

Take regular breaks and rest. Relax in some shade or a cool place for few minutes, hydrate and continue. Just because temperatures may be high you can still exercise and enjoy outside, adapt, and stay safe.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Headaches
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine

If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler place, stop exercising and cool down immediately by using cool wet cloths, compresses, and fanning. You may need to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of heat stroke:

The symptoms of heat stroke include (call 911 or the local emergency number right away):

  • Fever (temperature above 104 °F)
  • Irrational behavior
  • Extreme confusion
  • Dry, hot, and red skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Consult your Doctor

Your doctor is a partner in helping you stay healthy and active; they can advise you about your specific needs. Your healthcare provider can help you choose activities that will help your heart and are safe for you.

Being active is part of your heart-healthy lifestyle. Along with a heart healthy diet, exercise may strengthen your heart muscle, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and help keep your bones strong. Regular exercise can help you lose weight and feel better.

If you are new to exercise start slow and build up gradually little by little. Remember the more exercise you can the healthier you and your heart will be. Any amount will help.

Side view of a man doing a stretching exercise with the help of his yoga partner

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