Updated 11 February 2014

Exercise key to a healthy heart

An active lifestyle is essential to the heart patient. But it should be a gradual process. Here's what you should know.


An active lifestyle is essential to the heart patient. But it should be a gradual process. Time should be made for leisurely activities like reading or other hobbies as a source of pleasure.

A good idea is to attend a rehabilitation programme through your physiotherapist. This programme was probably part of your recovery phase in hospital and can be continued at home. The therapist can help you choose a sport in which you can participate after the programme.

Rhythmical types of sport, which promote breathing, are generally preferable to sport requiring a lot of strength. Cycling, swimming, walking or jogging is recommended. This should be done at least 15 minutes at a time. Other sports such as golf, bowling or fishing are beneficial to the heart patient.

You have to be fit before taking part in any sport. For this reason, walking is the best form of physical activity in the first few weeks.

Exercise tips

  • Start slowly. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise.
  • Watch for symptoms. Chest pain and short windedness shouldn’t be ignored. Discontinue the exercise and consult your doctor.
  • Rest after meals. Wait 30-40 minutes after mealtime before exercising.
  • Temperature control. Avoid extreme temperatures. Exercise in the cooler temperature of day in summer and in the warmer temperature of day in winter. Do not swim in a pool that is too cool.
  • Drink water. Always drink enough water.
  • Involve family and friends. This way, you get the exercise you need while having fun with the people you love.

Source: "Heart attack: what now?" produced by Parke-Davis, courtesy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.

- (Updated May 2008)


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