Doctors used to think that it was dangerous to
exercise after a heart attack. However research now proves that this isn’t the case.
Each individual is different, so please, speak with your cardiologist while in hospital about what sort of time frame you are looking at to start exercising and what he recommends for you.
Regular exercise or physical activity… or you could just call it ‘movement’ are vital for your physical and emotional health. And don’t forget that good, effective ‘movement’ can bring you fun and happiness at the same time.
Having a chronic illness or growing older can make an active lifestyle seem very far away. However, by changing the way you view exercise, you can hopefully, be enlightened and encouraged that it is possible to stay fit and well.
To explain in very simple terms what happens to your heart when you exercise; each time you ask your body for a little more blood and oxygen because you are moving more than usual, the arteries in your heart open up a little bit and strengthen a little bit to allow the extra demand to be met. This action, over time, little by little will help strengthen your arteries and even grow extra ones.
If you imagine what happens when a varicose vein in removed from your leg – The vein is removed and the blood has to find another way through. This is similar to your heart, if one of your arteries gets blocked and causes a heart attack, the outcome is best if there are other arteries to take the strain and the blood can still travel where it needs to go.
So if ever there is a problem with one of your arteries in the future, you are much more likely to recover well if the blood can find another way through. Therefore exercising (or moving more) is a life insurance policy for your future. Each time you demand a little more blood and oxygen because you are moving quicker, the arteries in your heart have to open up a little, and work a little harder which makes them stronger.
Don’t think that you have to don purple Lycra and join an expensive gym to be able to exercise. I take exercise very seriously and ensure that it is part of my everyday life. However, purple Lycra just doesn’t become me! Not with my legs!
Developing an active lifestyle
I am too busy writing books and being mum to 3 children to find time to go to the gym. Also I can’t afford the extortionate joining fees. Yet, like you, I know that having exercise in my everyday life will help keep me well and ticking.
Therefore I have to ensure that I build exercise into my daily routine, doing all the things that I have to get done.
This is why I prefer to call exercise ‘movement’.
The government tells us that we should do at least 20 minutes of ‘out of breath’ exercise every day. What they don’t tell us is that this is just as effective if it’s broken down into 5 or 10 minute increments.
So, for those of you who are not feeling able to get your trainers on and get out for a 20 minute brisk walk just yet, break this down into manageable segments. If you are able to walk out of your gate for 3 minutes to post a letter, then back to your gate for another 3 minutes, that’s already 6 minutes exercise you have done. Now, of course you are going to take it nice and steadily in the first few weeks after your heart attack, until you have been given the go-ahead to up the ante a bit. But as soon as you have been given the green light, it’s a case of taking baby steps and seeing how you feel.
You may wake up one day bursting with energy and be able to do a 20 minute walk all in one go. Wow. Brilliant.
Then possibly the next day, you might wake up and think you are too tired to even get out of bed. This is perfectly normal and this is why it’s so important that you listen to your body.
I’m going to go back to that pesky thigh muscle again. If you were recovering from that ‘leg attack’ and had managed to do a 20 minute walk yesterday, but today your leg ached, you would accept it in a flash, not worry about it and take the day off! Well, I’m going to say it again,
Because it’s your heart, it plays with your head.
You heart muscle may have enjoyed and benefited from your burst of energy yesterday, but today it feels a little tired and needs to fix again. It’s no problem, it’s nothing to worry about and it’s perfectly normal. Make sure you rest (100%!!), eat well, take your medication and wait for the energy to return. And it will.
There are some rules
It is really important that you follow your doctor’s and nurse’s advice on when to begin exercise. Once you’ve been given the green light there are a few useful rules to keep in mind.
Don’t over do things that make you so breathless you can’t speak. You should always be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If you can’t – slow down!
Pace yourself. Over-doing it is just as bad as under-doing it! Don’t try to be superhuman, but don’t be afraid to try things if you feel ready. Use your common sense. Give an activity a try, if you can do it easily, you can push yourself a bit further the next time but if it left you tired and breathless, then ease off a little when you do it again.
I like to set myself little challenges that involve exercise but only when I’m feeling fit and well. So, if you see a crazy woman dashing around Sainsburys’ with three kids flying behind at high speed – that’ll be me! This is exercise.
If I have to travel across town to get from one meeting to another, instead of taking a cab, I take off the kitten heels, pop on my trainers and march to my next meeting. This may only take me 10 or 15 minutes, but its 10 or 15 minutes that will have benefited my body, definitely more than sitting on my bum in a taxi. (Cheaper too!)
What do you fancy?
- Home Exercise
- My husband wanted me to add cleaning to my list but I put my foot down! Seriously, it takes a lot of energy and movement to clean the windows but it’s all good exercise.
Ways to exercise whilst travelling
If you travel to work or some other activity every day, this can be used to increase your activity levels. Ways to exercise while travelling include:
- Walk where possible. Get off the bus one or two stops early, especially if you save some money on the tickets
- Ride a bicycle to work, or to visit shops or friends
- If you are able, park a little further away from where you need to be and walk the last 10 minutes to your destination.
Ways to exercise at work
When you arrive at work or any other destination, continue your challenge to keep moving by finding ways to exercise which fit in with your day’s objectives.
- If you work in an office block, go and visit a colleague to discuss a point rather than phoning them.
- As long as you aren’t 100 floors up – try to take the stairs instead of the lift.
- If you have to take long telephone conversations, try to do it whilst walking around rather than sitting down.
- Try to get out for a 10 minute walk at lunch time.
- When you need the bathroom – don’t use the nearest one – walk that little bit further.
- While doing all of this, don’t tell your boss it is Sally Bee’s fault that you are never at your desk! Whoops!
Ways to exercise at home
The normal household chores can provide endless different ways to exercise, simply by the way in which you carry out the tasks. Perhaps the most important thing is to increase the speed at which you perform the tasks. It’s great because it gets the boring jobs done quicker, you get fitter and you have more spare time to do the fun stuff.
- Gardening presents a multitude of ways to exercise. Cutting the lawn (not on a ride on lawnmower) and hedges. Stretching and bending to prune shrubs and bushes. Digging the vegetable patch.
- All DIY, maintenance jobs use energy and stretch muscles not normally used. You should see my ballet movements when changing a light bulb!
- Tasks such as changing bed linen, vacuuming, dusting to music and other household tasks are excellent exercise. Set yourself time limits or deadlines to finish by.
Ways to exercise with hobbies
Your hobbies can present you with excellent ways to exercise. Apart from the obvious sports, other activities are also perfect to get your heart pumping.
- Dancing burns calories at a fast rate and is a very good way to exercise
- Swimming, Pilates, yoga and tai chi are all great ways to enjoy exercise as part of a hobby. Hey give them a try; what have you got to lose?
With a little imagination we can all find many ways to exercise throughout the day, and this all adds to our general level of fitness. You might just amaze yourself with your new found fitness! So, we’ve talked about the emotional journey you’ve been on, we’ve talked about how best to rest, how best to exercise and the importance of taking your medication as prescribed.