Cardiac Recovery and Exercise: Recommendations and Benefits

Moderate physical exercise has numerous benefits for the health status of patients with heart disease and cardiovascular disease. It is only necessary to carry out physical activity always under medical prescription and to submit to previous examinations and periodic controls.

Circulatory diseases account for one in three deaths in Spain. This, as shown by the Spanish Heart Society, places them as the leading cause of death in our country. Sedentary lifestyle, inadequate nutrition, alcohol or tobacco abuse are some of the main causes of heart problems, although there are also congenital heart diseases or those caused by genetic inheritance.

In any case, until recently the treatment for various heart conditions passed through the prescription of absolute rest. However, the benefits of medically controlled physical exercise are now known for all those patients who have suffered or suffer from heart disease.

Physical exercise and heart disease

Exercise increases cardiac output, oxygen consumption, increased venous return, and increased contractility of the myocardium. On the other hand, any cardiac pathology can alter the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide during physical activity.

For this reason, when a person suffering from a cardiovascular pathology practices sport, the greater the intensity, the greater the risk of sudden death or worsening of the disease. Hence the importance of a proper assessment of the patient so that, when it comes to exercise, receive advice and recommendations from a medical professional that allow you to do sport without risk.

Previous recognitions and periodic controls.

Whether it is a patient with a diagnosed cardiopathy or an a priori healthy patient who is going to begin -or already performs habitually- intense sports practice, it is absolutely necessary to carry out prior checks and repeat them periodically.

In the case of a patient with cardiovascular pathology, the evaluation is based on their own characteristics as well as those of their anomaly, the sport they practice and its intensity, etc. and consists of a detailed clinical history, an assessment of the symptoms and a physical examination – including an electrocardiogram.

For the rest of the patients, that is to say, any professional sportsman or any individual who wants to begin in the sport and in competing, should pass at least once a year by an effort test.

Exercises for each cardiovascular disease

As long as it is under medical prescription and with periodic controls of the state of health and of the evolution of the disease, any patient with cardiopathies or other heart problems should practice exercise according to their needs and limitations:

  • Coronary artery disease: Isometric (static) exercises are not recommended because of their elevated blood pressure. However, isotonic (dynamic) exercises such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming are recommended because they increase cardiovascular tolerance, improve the ability to do any daily activity, and raise the angina threshold after a period of training.
  • Cardiac valvular diseases: Patients with these diseases with a moderate to severe degree of severity (such as mitral stenosis) are recommended dynamic exercises: running, walking, swimming, cycling maintenance … avoiding violent efforts and always under medical control. Other diseases of this type: aortic insufficiency, mitral prolapse, tricuspid stenosis…

In addition to what type of exercise can or cannot be practiced, the patient must take into account when performing any physical activity:

  • Always perform a warm-up period, i.e. a progressive start in intensity and muscle groups to be worked on. This gradually increases the temperature, increases muscular elasticity and reduces resistance. The same happens with cooling, the end of the activity should be gradual, with stretching and progressive relaxation.
  • The recommended exercises for patients with heart disease are always isotonic or dynamic exercises, but always at a gentle intensity as the exercise should last between 30 and 45 minutes (continuous or at intervals).
  • Exercise on alternate days so that the organism recovers and assimilates the work done.

Physical activity and exercise help us to prevent all kinds of diseases, however they are no guarantee to prevent circulatory or vascular diseases. Therefore, periodic medical control and following the prescriptions of experts are vital to prevent or at least not worsen this type of disease.

Our specialists in the area of cardiac recovery will offer you Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs according to your needs and the characteristics of your illness, especially if you have survived a cardiovascular crisis.