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Exercise is an important part of rehab after a heart attack, but it’s important you exercise correctly to avoid any setbacks.

A heart attack is a significant warning sign. For many, it’s the body’s way of telling you to make lifestyle changes. For all patients, it signals the start of a staged recovery process. Find out what exercise you should start with to aid your recovery after a heart attack.

Starting the Recovery Process

It’s important you start rehabilitation as soon as it’s medically safe to do so. Research found that exercising in the year after a heart attack reduced the odds of dying in the immediate years. Even low levels of physical activity that’s maintained after recovery can provide a protective effect.

Just be sure to get sign off from your doctor before you begin your rehabilitation recovery process and continue with medical supervision throughout recovery.

Exercising After a Heart Attack 

Doing regular exercise after a heart attack helps speed up your ability to return to normal activities. Some people can return to their usual activities following a heart attack within weeks or a few months. But it depends on the level of physical activity prior to the heart attack and the extent of damage to the heart.

Light Exercise After a Heart Attack

A good way to resume exercise is to do light activities around the house, like dusting and walking around putting items away. Even just having a goal to sit less each day is a good start. Build your way up slowly with more strenuous activity as your doctor says it’s safe to do so. Make sure you don’t feel any pain or discomfort with extra activities.

If you want to do some activity away from the house, walking is an ideal starting point. Begin slowly and gradually increase the distance. You might start with walking to the kerb and back then down the road for five minutes and slowly build up to 30 minutes after several weeks.

When you’re starting out, you’ll want to walk on flat rather than steep ground. As your fitness improves, you can add in slopes and stairs. But avoid going outside if the weather is very hot or cold, so you don’t increase the stress on your body.

More Strenuous Exercise After a Heart Attack

If you’re a sports lover, you may be keen to get back to your favourite activity after your heart attack. Speak to your doctor before adding any new activities to your routine as it may still be too early or too strenuous.

Some excellent exercises to start with include swimming, bowls or golf, but leave your gym workout and high-intensity workouts for a little longer.

Remember, it’s not just high intensity exercise you need to be aware of. Lifting heavy objects like furniture can raise your blood pressure. Spending long periods on a strenuous activity like gardening can cause you to overdo it and setback your recovery.

If you want to work on muscle strength, start with exercises that require you to lift your body weight such as lunges and squats. Leave heavy hand weights until you’re fully recovered and you have the all-clear. If you want to include some weights, start with a tin of food in each hand as light weights.

Tips for Exercising

The rules for exercising after a heart attack are a little stricter than before. If you follow some basic guidelines, you’ll keep yourself safe and be on track for a fast recovery.

  • Continue to breathe while doing any exercise or activity, holding your breath can cause blood pressure problems.
  • Drink water before and after exercise

  • Stop and rest if you feel pain, dizziness or shortness of breath

  • Ensure you aren’t out of breath that you can’t talk as you exercise

  • Choose your time of day so you don’t exercise when it’s too hot or cold

  • Make sure you can always call for help while exercising

  • Eat a healthy diet to aid with your recovery

  • Don’t exercise after a heavy meal or drinking any alcohol

  • Avoid doing intense cardio or heavy lifting

  • Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about exercising after a heart attack


Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month in Australia. Wear red to raise awareness for heart research and make some changes in your life to look after your heart’s health. If you’re unsure where to start, speak to your GP or call Altius Group on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.