How to Start a Heart-Friendly Fall Fitness Routine

A cardiac rehabilitation specialist offers the tips she gives her heart patients to start a fall fitness routine.
Walkers and joggers along the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia
The fall season offers pristine views for walkers and joggers along Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Trail.
Cardiac rehab specialist Kaityln Cooper in the gym

Kaitlyn Cooper sees patients at the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Center at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital.

It’s never too late to FALL back into a heart-healthy routine. Every year, summer treats trigger bad habits. Take the change of season as a reason to get back into a routine that your heart will thank you for. As a cardiac rehab professional, I hear excuses all the time for reasons not to exercise. Read on for some of the most common I hear and the simple solutions I offer my clients to each of them. You are in charge of your health. Here are ways to take that first step.

I’m not sure I can exercise because of my heart health history.
Being physically active is a major step toward good heart health. It is one of your most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle and warding off something like artery damage. It is the easiest controlled lifestyle adjustment after a heart diagnosis. Here are some low impact but effective exercises:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Water aerobics

Remember: not every workout will work for every individual. As a heart patient, you must do what works for you and your body. Limitations such as joint pain, back pain and muscle soreness are common but do not restrict you from exercising altogether. I challenge you this season to try a new exercise!

I’m worried about heat exhaustion. 
It is vital to remain aware of your body’s reactions while you are exercising. Any symptom listed below could be a sign that your body is over-worked or dehydrated. Pace yourself and respect your limits.

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weakness
  • Drenching sweats

It’s too cold to exercise.
Weather does not eliminate the opportunity to exercise. You can get in a great workout right from home without having to go outside or go to a gym. For example:

  • Arm exercises (curls, presses and extensions) using canned goods as weights
  • Air squats
  • Walking up and down your stairs 10 times
  • Seated leg exercises (ankle pumps, knee raises)
  • Sit and stand 10 times on a sturdy chair

You can create and customize your at-home workout routine to be just as effective as going to the gym.

Ultimately, if you have any questions specific to your diagnosis, your cardiologist is the person to ask. With the guidance of your physician, you will be empowered and prepared to take charge of your own health. Getting regular exercise when you have heart disease could be lifesaving. Physical activity can strengthen your heart muscle and help you manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Take your first step toward a healthier lifestyle today!

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