As part of your recovery from acute coronary syndrome, your doctor will talk to you about how physical activity and exercise can improve your heart health.
Research shows that regular physical activity can strengthen your heart and body, improve your energy, boost your mood, and reduce the risk of heart problems. Your doctor can help you find a physical activity program that suits your needs and condition. He or she will likely recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program and test in which your heart rate is monitored while you exercise (exercise stress test).
Cardiac rehabilitation programs provide education and counseling services to help increase your physical fitness, reduce cardiac symptoms and lower your risk of future heart problems, including a heart attack. Many hospitals and community organizations, such as senior centers, offer these programs. Depending on your condition, the program might continue for weeks to months after you return home from the hospital.
As part of a cardiac rehabilitation program, medical staff will create a physical activity routine tailored to your needs. Training often begins in a group setting. During physical activity your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored. You might work with a physical therapist or exercise physiologist. You'll learn how to monitor your heart rate and the level of intensity of your physical activity and gradually work up to more intense aerobic activity.
During a typical cardiac rehabilitation exercise training session, you'll walk slowly for 5 to 15 minutes and stretch before and after doing an aerobic or strengthening activity. This will help you gradually increase your heart rate and breathing as you to start to work out and slowly decrease your heart rate and breathing afterward. You'll do at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, followed by resistance training, such as lifting light weights.
If you can't attend supervised exercise training sessions, it's important for you to pace yourself as you exercise on your own. However, many people have trouble accurately monitoring their heart rates. Try using the "talk test" — exercising at the fastest rate that still allows you to talk comfortably.
Also, make sure your doctor explains the warning signs that you might be pushing yourself too hard, including:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or confused
- Feeling extremely tired after physical activity
- Having extreme shortness of breath
- Having a fast or uneven heartbeat
If you notice these signs or symptoms during or after physical activity, stop and call your doctor.
March 16, 2019
- Bonow RO, et al., eds. Exercise-based, comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation. In: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed May 26, 2016.
- Anderson L, et al. Cardiac rehabilitation for people with heart disease: An overview of Cochrane systematic reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011273.pub2/full. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- What is cardiac rehabilitation? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/What-is-Cardiac-Rehabilitation_UCM_307049_Article.jsp#.V09AYfkrLIU. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- Be safe while being active. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Be-Safe-While-Being-Active_UCM_307381_Article.jsp#.V0cZ6_krLIU. Accessed May 26, 2016.