Heart Failure and activity

Keep it moving

Like all muscles, your heart can benefit from physical activity. Medical opinion strongly supports regular activity for people with Heart Failure (HF). Combined with medicine and changes in diet, it’s been shown to help them live longer, more active lives.

Getting active, and staying active, with Heart Failure

staying active with heart failure

You don’t have to start a formal exercise program. You just need to keep moving. Even going for a walk around the block can be helpful. If that’s too much for you, stand up and stretch, or do some seated exercises.

Everyone’s different. Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any physical activity plan to make sure it’s safe for your health.

staying active with heart failure
heart failure activity

How much activity is enough?

heart failure activity

Ask your doctor to recommend the level of activity that works for you. If you haven't been exercising, take it easy—and start slowly. But get started. Consider using a daily activity tracker to help monitor how you're doing.

Set a goal

Health experts agree that you should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

  • Think of it as at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week

  • If this sounds like a lot to you, break your activity into shorter chunks—maybe 10 minutes at a time

The recommended goal is moderate-intensity activity (think brisk walking). But that’s not right for everyone. Your doctor will advise you on what activity—and how much—is right for you and your heart.

Keep track so you can stay on track

Keep a record of your activity to help you stick with it. Download a form and fill it out day by day to share with the doctor.

Customize your exercise

Forget “No pain, no gain.” Yes, you should aim for regular daily activity. But you can do it your way. Here are some ideas to discuss with your doctor:

  • Match your activity to your health and your abilities. If standing or walking is not realistic for you, start with exercises you can do sitting down

  • Do what you enjoy. For example, dancing is a fun and healthy activity. Take this time to learn something you’ve always wanted to master. Or go back to something you had given up

  • Include gardening or cleaning the house as part of your activity plan

  • Make a regular date. Meet with a friend or family member if you don’t like to exercise alone. Or join a group. When you're doing moderate exercise, you should even be able to chat as you go

  • Mix and match your activities. If you’re the kind of person who gets bored, try a brisk walk one day, maybe gentle water aerobics the next

Make it a habit

heart failure exercise

Here are some ways to help keep yourself on track:

  • Exercise at the same time of day, every day. It’ll be easier to keep it up

  • Keep a record. Note how many repetitions you did or how far you were able to go. Track all your accomplishments, big and small, and celebrate your milestones

  • Have a backup for bad weather. For instance, walking around your local mall

  • Don’t get discouraged. If you stop for any reason, begin again and work back to where you were

heart failure exercise

Measuring your activity

For some rules of thumb on exercise and activity, register for the Keep It Pumping resource program, including your free Heart Failure Handbook.


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