Exercise is an essential part of healthy living, and vital for effective recovery after any cardiac event. Being inactive is also a risk factor for heart disease.
Unfortunately over half of all Australians aren’t getting the recommended amount of physical activity.
Exercise has so many benefits for your health and well-being. It lowers the risk of heart disease, including stroke. It can also reduce the risk of some types of cancer, and of type 2 diabetes.
Regular exercise has been shown to:
- improve the efficiency of the heart muscle
- improve blood circulation
- increase muscle strength and flexibility
- prevent muscle soreness and injury after exercise
- maintain a stable weight
- increase ‘good’ cholesterol levels
- have positive effects on insulin resistance (use of sugars)
- protect from blood clotting
- aid healing
- promote a sense of well-being
- reduce stress levels and improve mood
Regular cardio-based physical activity enables the heart to achieve improved blood flow in the small vessels around it which may help reduce the risk of heart attack.
It is important that you start a regular routine that you will maintain for the rest of your life.
Following these simple guidelines will maximise the effectiveness of your exercise program, and minimise the risk of injury during activity.
- Avoid exercising immediately after meals.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing and supportive shoes.
- Avoid exercising in extremes of temperature or in strong winds.
- Do not exercise when feeling unwell with a fever or bad cold.
- Drink plenty of fluids before and after exercise.
- Avoid caffeine immediately before and after exercise.
To view the recommended amount of physical activity you should be doing click here.
The first step: start walking
An ideal way to begin is to follow a gentle walking program.
Walking is the safest form of exercise for the first few weeks. It’s a good way to gain fitness in the early stage of your recovery.
The walking times outlined here are a guide only. Each individual will progress at their own rate, so you may want to slow down or speed up, as it suits you.
|Week||Time||Times per day||Intensity/pace|
|5||35-40 mins||1||moderately hard|
|6||40-45 mins||1||moderately hard|
Exercise should never feel uncomfortable, painful or produce unusual or severe symptoms of angina. If it does, cool down, stop, and see your local doctor before continuing exercise.
When you are walking, it is important that you consider your level of intensity (how hard you are working). The level varies from person to person – what is easy for some may be difficult for others.
For the first four weeks you should exercise at a light to moderate pace, increasing to a moderate to hard intensity from five weeks onwards. You should not be exercising at a very hard or vigorous intensity.
You may ‘huff and puff’ and perspire when you exercise. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation. You should never be gasping for air.
If you have completed the walking program, or are already at a higher level of fitness, you need to maintain your fitness by exercising regularly! Your exercise program may include:Long-term fitness
- aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, exercise classes
- recreational activities such as tennis or golf
- being as active as you can in your daily activities, e.g. taking the stairs instead of the lift.
You may like to add variety with swimming or cycling, or attending exercise classes as well as walking.
Setting the right pace
Work at a pace that you feel is moderately hard. You should be at about level 5 on the perceived exertion scale.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 3–5 times a week. Ideally you should try to do something every day. If you can’t exercise continuously, you can do shorter bouts throughout the day, or alternate between a light and moderately hard pace, allowing you to last the whole 30 minutes.
Remember to warm up and cool down.
- 10 minutes: slow walking (warm-up)
- 30 minutes: moderately hard walking
- 10 minutes: slow walking (cool-down)
- 5 minutes: stretching