Physical Activity

Regular physical activity will:

  • Improve the function of your heart and lungs
  • Improve your HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Help you achieve a healthier body weight
  • Improve your blood sugar
  • Improve your muscle tone and bone density
  • Increase your endurance and improve your confidence
  • Improve your ability to cope with stress and decrease anxiety and depression

Physical Activity


How to Increase Your Physical Activity

Once you are home, you should continue all the activities you followed while you were in the hospital. The longer you are home, the more you should be able to do.

A balance of rest and activity should still be maintained to allow for continued healing and to conserve your energy. Activity should be increased gradually. Everyone’s recovery is different. The rate at which you progress will depend on the severity of your cardiac event and your previous activity level. After four to six weeks, you should be back to performing your regular activities.

Walking is one of the earliest activities you are allowed to resume and it is one of the best exercises for improving your health. We have given you a walking guide below to help get you started.

You will be referred to a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to provide you with exercise and lifestyle guidelines. This is an important part of your recovery. You are strongly encouraged to participate. You may also want to discuss details with your doctor about returning to more intense activities.

Walking Program

Weeks 1 to 2

  • Five to 10 minutes of leisurely walking once or twice daily

Weeks 3 to 6

At this point you are ready to begin your walking program:

  • Begin with 10 minutes of slow walking once or twice daily.
  • Increase by one minute per day until you are walking 20 to 30 minutes per walk.
  • Increase your speed and distance as tolerated, remembering that it is important to avoid shortness of breath and fatigue. Always begin your walks at a slow stroll for the first few minutes, then increase your pace. Your walking time can be maintained at 30 minutes once or twice daily.

Drawing of the described calf muscle stretchAfter your walks, stretch your calf muscles. They are likely to get tight as you begin to increase your daily activity.

  • Stand straight close to a solid surface on which you can use your hands for balance.
  • Place one leg in front of the other, shoulder width apart, with both your feet pointing forward.
  • Bend the knee that is forward while keeping the back leg straight until you feel a stretch in the back leg.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

If you are having difficulty following the above program, use interval training. For example, each interval includes:

  • Walking two to five minutes
  • Then resting two to five minutes

Repeat this pattern as many times as you are able to, gradually increasing the number of intervals.

Exercise Guidelines

  • Walk on flat ground initially. If hills are unavoidable, walk more slowly when going uphill.
  • It is best to wait about an hour after a meal before you exercise as extra energy is required for digestion.
  • It is important to start exercising for short periods of time and at a slow walkingpace. Gradually increase the length of your walks before you increase the speed.
  • If you are feeling well enough, you may exercise twice per day.
  • You should be back to your pre-walk or resting state within 10 minutes of completing your exercise. If not, the next time you exercise, reduce your time or speed.
  • If you feel tired, shorten your walking time. Go back to the previous level of activity for a few days. Listen to what your body is telling you. You may be trying to do too much too soon.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures, such as hot humid days or cold windy ones. During this time, exercise indoors using stationary equipment or walk in the hallways of your house or apartment, or in a mall.
  • If you are using a treadmill, keep it flat. It is best not to use the incline.
  • A stationary bicycle can also be very valuable, especially if you have joint problems which make walking more difficult. Make sure you pedal at a slow speed with little or no tension.
  • Avoid exercises where you hold your breath or bear down.

STOP and Rest If You:

  • Become very short of breath
  • Feel weak, tired, lightheaded or dizzy
  • Have any discomfort, especially chest discomfort
  • Have a fast heart rate or palpitations
  • Have nausea or excessive sweating

If these symptoms persist, call 911


Self-Monitoring Tools

The following tools will help to guide you with the progression of your exercise program.

Walk and Talk Test

This is the simplest test of all. At all times, you should be able to carry on a light conversation while exercising.

RPE Scale
0 = Nothing at all
1 = Very easy
2 = Easy
3 = Moderate
4 = Somewhat difficult
5 = Difficult

6 = More difficult
7 = Very difficult
8 = +
9 = ++
10 = Very, very difficult (almost maximal)

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

This is a number-based scale used to describe how you feel during your exercise session. The number you choose should reflect your overall level of effort, including your breathing. There is no right or wrong answer. For exercise, you should be between 3 and 5 on the scale of 0 to 10. As your recovery and fitness improve, so too will your perceived level of effort. The change in effort that you feel over time, for the same exercise, is a measure of your improvement.

Rest and Activity at Home

The following guidelines offer some helpful advice about activity in general:

  • Try to get eight hours of sleep every night during your recovery period.
  • Minimize activity after meals. Sit and watch TV or read the newspaper.
  • Stop and rest when you feel tired.
  • Give yourself enough time for activities so that you won’t feel tense or rushed.
  • Plan your day to achieve a balance between active periods and quiet times. Spread out more difficult tasks and alternate an easy task with a difficult one.
  • Housework is not advised for the first week you are home. After that, you may resume light housework, such as helping with meals, and increase as your tolerance improves.
  • Standing still for any length of time is very tiring. During your recovery, sit for as many activities as possible, e.g., washing dishes, food preparation.

Some additional guidelines for resuming activities of daily living:

Weeks 1 to 3

  • Walking slowly
  • Writing, drawing
  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Knitting , needlework
  • Climbing stairs slowly
  • Short outings
  • Lifting 5 to 10 pounds (when necessary)
  • At Week 2: Light laundry, sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, preparing light meals

Weeks 3 to 6

  • Cleaning sinks and toilets
  • Mopping floor
  • Vacuuming
  • Ironing
  • Bed-making
  • Light gardening
  • Raking leaves
  • Pushing light power mower
  • Lifting up to 20 pounds (when necessary)
  • Bowling
  • Golfing with power cart