Exercise And Heart Disease

A sedentary lifestyle is a controllable risk factor in exercise and heart disease along with diabetes, hypertension, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, elevated serum lipid levels, and stress.

Make sure to download my FREE ebook to begin your 4 week senior exercise program using all these great exercises!

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Physical exercise improves the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk for heart disease. Those who chose a sedentary lifestyle often have increased risk for developing obesity and other risk factors.

Management of these risk factors is important in preventing cardiovascular disease.

If you are taking medication for an unstable condition or if you have not received medical release from your rehabilitation program following heart surgery, you should not begin an unsupervised exercise program.

Most older adults can participate safely in a wide variety of activities for exercise and heart disease including low impact aerobic classes, dance classes, progressive resistance training, yoga or Pilates classes.

If you have any risk factors above or have a family history of heart disease, check with your doctor first before beginning any exercise program.

It is a good idea to get medical clearance if you are a male over 40 or a female over 50.

Stop exercising if you have any of the following

  • Over-fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pressure or pain

If you know you have heart disease, call your Doctor if any of the above happen during a workout.

Safety During Your Workout

If you have heart disease it is recommended that you take your blood pressure before and after exercise and at least once during exercise. Also, take your heart rate several times during your workout.

Make sure you perform a thorough warm-up for at least 10 minutes and cool down after exercise has ended for 10 minutes.

These periods need to have low-level limbering and rhythmical movements.

Avoid saunas, steam baths and hot tubs to decrease the risk of dehydration and hyperthermia.

It may be harmful to hold a muscular contraction due to raised blood pressure. Therefore avoid isometric and heavy resistance exercise.

If you have the flu or a fever, wait until your temperature has returned to normal before exercising.

Check out these other great ideas and solutions for elderly home care and safety.

Exercise and heart disease activities

Some  exercises are well suited to those with heart disease.


As Jack LaLanne says, walking is the “king of exercise”. Starting an outdoor walking program when the weather is favorable is a great start.  If you are a low fit person, start with 2-5  minutes. Try to build up to 30 to 45 minutes of continuous walking 3 days a week.

Low impact aerobic class:

Make sure the class is of low intensity so that the heart rate is controlled and does not exceed your training range. Don’t use ankle or wrist weights during your aerobic class.

Avoid overhead arm work.  Always include a warm up period and cool down period in your class. Check your heart rate several times during class.


Either an aqua-aerobics class for non-swimmers, or lap swimming for skilled swimmers is a good choice for endurance exercise. Don’t swim in water that is too cold. Water temperature from 80 to 86 degrees is most appropriate for the general population.

Stationary Cycling:

This is a great way to get in your aerobic workout. Make sure the seat is comfortable and cushioned to help prevent pressure ulcers and gloves to help prevent blisters on the hands. Try to build up to 20-30 minutes, three times per week.

When considering exercise and heart disease and beginning a fitness program, be consistent with quality exercise sessions to increase the benefits to your heart.

Make sure you download my FREE 4 week Senior Exercise Program ebook to get more help

Leave a Comment:

rosieways says January 30, 2018

I lead gentle exercise classes for older people, mainly Tai Chi & Flexercise. I’ve obviously done my training & necessary courses. Everyone enjoys my classes, I keep them fun & encourage participants to take things at their own pace & never over-stretch themselves. I have an active 91year old lady who has had heart problems for several years ( told she has heart failure but hasn’t been given any support or advice). She tries to stay active but is terrified to swim or exercise in any way that might involve lifting her arms. I was taught not to encourage holding arms high with heart patients, but she is terrified to even reach up at all, including catching soft balls. She knows to stop if she gets breathless but is becoming paranoid about using her arms, believing that it might cause a heart attack. I have asked her to double check with her GP in case she misunderstood their advice but she is adamant that she mustn’t raise her arms at all. Obviously I respect her decisions but am concerned in case I’ve misunderstood a vital part of my training. I’ve read endless books on the subject but am unable to find out quite how serious lifting arms fleetingly ( reaching up, one arm at a time, not holding anything, not maintaining the position). Could you clarify this for me please? I don’t want to risk harming her or anyone else. Incidentally she’s never had a heart attack & hasn’t been issued with a GTN spray or similar.

Luckie Ford says November 7, 2017

I’ve struggled with weight my entire life but I always stayed active and in reasonably good condition. My blood work, physicals, blood pressure, etc were always great. Fortunately, I stayed that way through the beginning of last year. At that time, I experienced a series of issues with an achilles tendon and since then, a series of health events that has left me unable to do a lot and has me no longer able to do most of the things I really enjoy. I started having knee issues and wasn told I need to lose some of my weight to have both knees replaced. Unfortunately, shortly after that I had a heart attack which brought on congestive heart failure and I am unable to do a lot with feeling fatigued and out of breath. In an 18 month period, I’ve gone from a relatively healthy 56 year old to a 58 year old who has no ability or desire to even try to do the things I used to do.

Any suggestions for activities and exercise that i can do with ailing knees and a less than healthy heart that hopefully will get me back on the right track?

    Doug Schrift says November 8, 2017

    Great question on a very tough topic. Heart failure is one of the most common reason for hospital admissions for seniors over 65. As a hospital physical therapist, I see heart failure patients every day and I know the challenges of fatigue, swelling, and shortness of breath. If you haven’t been to cardiac rehabilitation, that is the best place to start. You will get the best care and guidance from doctors, nutritionists, and physical rehabilitation specialists, to design a lifestyle that is right for you. Exercise is a very important part of heart failure, but should be prescribed and monitored by your healthcare team. The exercises on this website are easy and gentle for seniors with chronic health conditions. Generally start with easy upper and lower body stretching for a week,

    then move into some strengthening.

    Just remember to try to exercise at the same time each day to build a routine that will be easy to stick to. Monitor your fatigue level and keep in contact with your doctor to manage your medications, which can make a big difference in your ability to exercise. Here is a good heart failure support group.
    Take care and God bless.

mary segura says July 7, 2017

My grandmother who is 75 was walking and driving had a heart attack and is home now after 6 weeks and has no energy to get out of bed on her own.
She still can walk or anything?
Should I be concern and how can I help now that she is home?

    Doug Schrift says July 10, 2017

    Yes, a heart attack injures some of your heart muscle, which in turn decreases your ability to move blood through your body. This can cause not only body fatigue but also some mental problems too. It is important to begin slowly to bring back mobility and build your strength. Use a four wheeled walker with a seat to begin taking walks again. This will allow her to go farther with more comfort and safety. Start slowly around the house with the walker and gradually begin walking outdoors as her strength improves. Work up to a ten minute walk, 3 times per day.

Russ Billard says April 7, 2014

I have joined a health club and I see my heart doctor in two weeks. I will talk to him about the need for a stress test to determine whether I have heart disease. I meet with a therapist from the health club this week to establish a plan of action for getting in shape. Thanks for the information.

    Doug Schrift says April 7, 2014

    You are welcome. Good luck with your program!

Russ Billard says April 5, 2014

My wife and I are 77 and I am trying to exercise more. How do I know if I have heart disease? I have HBP which is under control with meds. My weight is 265 and I am 5′-8.” Does everyone who has HBP and over weight have heart disease?

    Doug Schrift says April 6, 2014

    Great question. Generally to assess heart disease, you will need a medical examination and possibly a clinical exercise test. Healthy seniors are recommended to get a test for heart disease if they plan on vigorous exercise only. If you plan on moderate exercise, it is usually ok. If you have any cardiac risk factors you definitely want to get a exam and possibly a clinical exercise test. Signs of heart disease include, pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, and jaw; shortness of breath at rest or with mild exertion; dizziness or fainting; trouble breathing at night or missing breaths; ankle swelling; palpitations in your chest; pain in your legs with exercise; heart murmur; unusual fatigue or shortness of breath with usual activities. The clinical exercise test is usually what we call a maximal test in which you walk then run on a treadmill with a doctor and other trained personal are continually monitoring your progress. If you cannot tolerate this type of test, you may be given a submaximal test which can also provide useful information. This can include just walking fast on a treatmill, using an “arm bike” or regular leg bike for testing. Easier tests do not provide good information on your heart but can shed light on your functional capacity and how you respond to exercise.

      Russell Billard says February 22, 2016

      I have heard that Angioprim will remove plaque from my arteries. Is that true, lf not will anything remove plaque? I have had a stress test and a chorin artery exam

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