9 Safe Exercises After a Heart Attack

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on March 20, 2021
  • Man at pool
    The Best Exercises for Heart Patients
    It’s important to get moving after a heart attack. It will improve your heart health and help prevent future problems. Most guidelines recommend easing into exercise after a heart attack with walking or climbing stairs. Add a few minutes every day until you feel comfortable exercising for 30 minutes straight. This should take a few weeks, so don’t rush. Recent studies suggest 30 minutes of exercise a day will keep your heart healthy and keep you from overdoing it. Also, stick with aerobic activity instead of weight lifting, which can cause a sudden increase in heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Women walking for exercise
    1. Walking
    Walking is the number one recommended post-heart attack exercise for cardiac rehabilitation—or rehab. Walking is easy, free and nearly everyone can do it at some level. It may take several weeks to work up to walking 30 minutes a day, so start with a short walk to your mailbox and keep adding steps daily. Walking is also a great way to move with friends and build an exercise support team. If you don’t have any buddies to walk with you, see if any cardiac rehab programs in your area have walking groups.
  • Couple jogging
    2. Jogging or Running
    If you’re a runner and aren’t sure what to do after your heart attack, don’t worry. You can still run. Like walking, take it slow and start with just a few minutes of walking or jogging at first. Build up your stamina over several weeks. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day and 30 miles or less a week. Too much aerobic exercise after a heart attack can stress your heart and increase your risk of having another heart attack. Some guidelines recommend you avoid competitive running so you’re not tempted to push your heart too much.
  • Senior swimming
    3. Swimming
    When it comes to safe exercises for heart patients, swimming is an ideal aerobic activity that’s great for any fitness level. After a heart attack, it’s important to not get overheated while exercising. It can raise your blood pressure and put stress on your arteries and heart. Usually, you have to avoid walking or running outdoors if it’s too hot. That’s why swimming is a great alternative. You get an aerobic workout and stay cool. Like the other exercises, ease into your swimming routine and shoot for 30 minutes, five times a week.
  • Seniors biking
    4. Biking
    Outdoor cycling or using an indoor exercise bike are both smart exercises for heart patients. If you’re biking outdoors, make sure you don’t get too hot and send your blood pressure skyrocketing. Cycling indoors typically has options for traditional upright bikes or more easy-going recumbent bikes. Either one will help you get your blood pumping. Plus, an exercise bike is perfect for working out at home.
  • Man on rower
    5. Rowing
    Don’t ignore that rowing machine in the corner of your gym. Rowing is a nice low-impact way to boost your heart rate and keep your ticker in shape. Some people like to mix up their workouts with 15 minutes of rowing and 15 minutes of walking or running on the treadmill. Either way, rowing is a nice addition to keep your exercise routine interesting. If you prefer being outdoors, some cities have rowing clubs where you can show off your strokes on a river or lake.
  • Senior water aerobics
    6. Aerobics
    A well-supervised, traditional aerobic class is just the thing to boost your blood circulation and lower your blood pressure. Step aerobics and water aerobics are both excellent ways to move your body and many gyms and YMCAs offer these classes. If your class includes lifting weights of any kind, just skip that part. Moving your arms and legs is enough of a workout, especially when you are just starting cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Senior yoga
    7. Yoga
    Gentle yoga is the best style of yoga for anyone looking for a low-key exercise program after a heart attack. You’ll still get your body moving, but you’ll focus on making your muscles longer and more flexible. Plus, you’ll train your mind to wind down, which is great for lowering your blood pressure. Just be sure to look for deep stretch, gentle, or yin yoga classes and avoid power or hot yoga.
  • Couple dancing
    8. Dancing
    What’s the best way to stick with an exercise program? Have fun! Dancing is a playful way to build your heart’s stamina. Swing dancing, two-stepping, or just doing the twist in your living room for 30 minutes will help protect you from a future heart attack and keep your spirits up. It’s even more fun if you boogie down and get your heart rate up with a partner! You may also enjoy exercise classes that incorporate dance, such as Zumba or WERQ Fitness.
  • Mowing grass
    9. Gardening and Yard Work
    If hitting the gym isn’t your thing, you can still get an aerobic workout right in your backyard. Don’t underestimate the benefits of yard work as safe exercise after a heart attack. Gardening, mowing the yard, and trimming the hedges will help you get your heart back in peak condition. And your yard will look great! Just be careful not to do it with too much heavy lifting or exposure to the heat. Keep yourself hydrated and always take a break if you feel tired, overheated, or out of breath.
9 Safe Exercises After a Heart Attack
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 20
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