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Physical Activity for Heart Failure Patients


One of the most important ways that people with heart failure can maintain their sense of well-being is to keep active. Activity can help you feel better, may decrease your symptoms, and may improve your heart's function. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. 


The key to becoming more active is to do it slowly and gradually. To start, pick a simple aerobic activity that you like. Some examples include walking, bike riding, even using the elliptical machine at the gym. Walking is a good choice for many people because it is easy to start a walking program, does not require any special equipment, and can be done year-round and most anywhere.

If you are going to start a more vigorous exercise talk to your health care provider. They may want to do an exercise test before you start such a program. 

The goal for most people with heart failure is to accumulate at least 30 minutes of activity per day on most days of the week. This does not mean that you have to be active for 30 minutes in a row, if that is difficult for you. For example, you can be active for three 10-minute blocks to get to your 30-minute goal.


Have shortness of breath at rest or more symptoms than usual.

Feel exhausted.

Have a fever, infection, or feel ill.

Have chest pain.

Are going through a major change in your medication regimen.

Have persistent muscle aches or pains in the body part you are exercising.


Signs of overexertion include:

Shortness of breath that prevents you from completing a sentence.

Shortness of breath that does not get better when you decrease or stop the activity.

Dizziness or light-headedness.

Chest pain or tightness. Pain in your arms, shoulders, neck, or jaw.

Irregular heart rate (pulse).

Unusual or extreme fatigue.

Severe sweating.

Nausea, vomiting.