Exercise and Your Health

It’s no secret regular exercise is beneficial to heart failure patients. Not only does exercise build strength and endurance, but it improves balance, reduces stress, and increases self-confidence and feelings of well-being. Before you start any exercise program talk to your doctor: he or she may recommend a supervised cardiac rehabilitation program. Your healthcare provider will determine a safe level of exercise specific to your diagnosis and stage of heart failure.

Exercise and Your HealthExercise and Your Health


  • Try to exercise three to five days a week (only if you feel well). You may need a day of rest in between workout sessions.
  • Make exercise a part of your daily routine, like weighing yourself everyday and taking your medication.
  • Start out slowly: alternate between 2-5 minutes of easy walking followed by 2-5 minutes of rest. Continue as tolerated. Keep your effort light and comfortable. You should be able to walk and talk at the same time. Do not push yourself.
  • As your endurance increases, boost your walking time and decrease your resting time. For example: walk for 5 minutes and rest for 2 minutes.
  • Keep this up until you are able to walk continuously for 20 minutes (that means no stopping). Once you have achieved this, slowly increase your walking time to 30-40 minutes.
  • You don’t have to do all your activity at once. You can split up your work outs throughout the day. Go on two short walks, instead of one.
  • Set goals you can reach. If you expect too much, you are likely to become discouraged and stop exercising.
  • If you have trouble breathing or feel worn outSTOP, rest, and make sure to do less next time.


  • Stretch for 10-15 minutes prior to your workout to warm up muscles and to increase your flexibility. Stretching reduces your chances for injury.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy: walking, cycling, swimming, and “low to no-impact” aerobics.
  • Strength train using light weights; this will increase the tone and strength in your muscles.
  • Remember to cool down for a minimum of 5-10 minutes. Gradually slow your pace in increments of 1-2 minutes.


  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, shoulders, or upper back.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea.
  • Unusual shortness of breath.
  • Unusual heartbeat—too fast or too slow, or feeling like your heart is “skipping a beat.”


  • SHORTNESS of breath lasting 10 minutes or more.
  • DIZZINESS, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, or cold sweat.
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