People with Heart Disease Need Exercise Too

Health Writer
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“Exercise can help you live longer and improve the quality of your life more than any drug” according to Leslie Cho, M.D., the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center.

Even though exercise is extremely beneficial to our health, especially our cardiovascular health, most people aren’t aware that they should be striving for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week. Many people also have misconceptions about the intensity, for example Dr. Cho finds that some people believe exercise programs must be mainly vigorous exercise. She points out that moderate exercise is fine. Moderate is described as activity that allows you to carry on conversation with four word sentences. If you can hold long conversations, you aren’t working hard enough and if you can’t get one or two words out, it is okay to slow down. During moderate exercise you should break a sweat.

Exercise and heart disease

A recent Heart Health Survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic found that Americans are confused about exercise for people with health conditions, especially heart disease. About two-thirds of those participating in the survey indicated that they weren’t aware that those with heart disease should be exercising the same amount as people without heart disease. The only difference, Dr. Cho points out, is that people with heart disease should speak with their doctor prior to starting an exercise program and find out if they should have a stress test first. Specific cardiac rehabilitation programs can help - reducing mortality rates from heart disease by half - but only about one-fourth of those eligible for these programs take advantage of them. Your doctor should be able to give you further information on a program in your area.

Getting past the excuses

Most people are aware that exercise is good for your health. They know they should be exercising. Even so, they find it hard to get started. Dr. Cho finds some of the reasons people don’t exercise include:

Time - People sometimes believe they must set aside one to two hours at a time to exercise. Instead, she recommends exercising for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening each day. This gives you an even amount of exercise throughout the week.

Joining a gym - Dr. Cho points out you don’t need to join a gym, taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood each evening (remember the rules for moderate exercise) will improve your health.

Buying equipment or clothing - Just as with joining a gym, you don’t need any special equipment or clothing to begin an exercise program. Put on a pair of sneakers, comfortable clothing and take a walk.

Sometimes people see an exercise program as simply one more item on their to-do list. They view it as a chore rather than a pleasant experience. But daily exercise can help you relax, improve your health and give you a chance to let go of the daily stresses. Rather than seeing it as an extra chore, view exercise as a way to reinvigorate yourself so you can accomplish more during your day.

If you need help setting up an exercise program, visit clevelandclinic.org/loveyourheart for more information on exercise and setting up an exercise program.

A word about Fitbits and electronic trackers

The recent trend to use electronic trackers, such as the Fitbit, can help you keep track of your daily activity. Many people use these to help them reach 10,000 steps per day. This is great for you mentally, according to Dr. Cho, but you might not be doing much for your heart health. If most of your 10,000 steps are done in a leisurely pace then you aren’t improving your cardiovascular health - for that you need brisk walks where you are breaking a sweat. When using electronic trackers, make sure that you are setting aside 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening for moderate exercise.

For more information: Exercise Tips to Motivate Yourself: Find a Workout Partner Overcoming Barriers to Exercise How to Encourage Kids to Get More Exercise Why Fitness Trackers May Be a Dying Fad How to Squeeze More Exercise into a Busy Day