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Heart Failure: Activity and Exercise


UPMC Content 2

Regular physical activity helps people with CHF (congestive heart failure) feel better. When you are active, it helps the heart and lungs use oxygen better. Physical activity also helps:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Control your weight
  • Decrease stress and tension
  • Boost your energy level

Get moving!

Choose any activity you enjoy. If you like the activity, you are more likely to continue doing it. Walking is a great choice. It may be more enjoyable if you ask a friend or family member to join you.

Exercise should be guided by common sense:

  • Rest before you feel tired.
  • Be able to carry on a conversation while you are exercising.
  • Rest if you feel short of breath.
  • Avoid activities that make you grunt, groan, or strain.

You’ll get the most benefit from a regular exercise routine. It is best if you exercise at least 3 days a week.

Warm up and cool down

Each time you exercise, start with a warm-up. March in place for about 5 minutes, and do some upper-body stretches. At the end of each exercise session, finish with a cool-down period. This may include stretching exercises.

Starting an exercise program can be the hardest part. Once you get started, it’s likely that you will continue your program. You’ll feel better and have more energy. Your daily activities will seem easier.

Step it up!

Does your regular routine seem too easy? Are you ready to step it up? You should increase the amount of time you exercise little by little.

Ask your doctor before you increase the speed or intensity of your exercise. Ask your doctor about getting involved in a cardiac rehabilitation program in your local area. These programs have trained staff who can help you:

  • Increase your exercise tolerance
  • Decrease CHF symptoms
  • Improve your quality of life

Ways to save energy

  • Avoid becoming too tired. Plan ahead so that you are not doing all of your work in one day or at one time during the day.
  • Space your activities and work over the whole day. Do some work, then take a break. The trick is to quit while you’re ahead, before you feel tired. If you do small amounts of work at a time, you will be able to do more in the long run.
  • Sit rather than stand when doing activities such as ironing, washing dishes, shaving, or brushing your teeth.
  • At work, take advantage of breaks and lunch time to sit and rest.
  • When doing a task, gather all the supplies you will need. That way, you will avoid making unnecessary trips. Get a small laundry cart with wheels for an easy way to carry items throughout the house.
  • When climbing up stairs, put 2 feet on each step. Stop and rest if you feel you need to.
  • If you feel tired, dizzy, or short of breath, you need to stop and rest.
  • Ask your family and friends for help.
  • Even on your good days, it’s important to save your energy. When you are feeling good, you may be tempted to overdo things.
  • You may have a certain time each day when you feel more energetic. Plan to
    do difficult tasks during this time. That way, you can take it easy when your energy is lower.
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