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The Benefits of Exercise on Your Heart

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There is strong medical evidence that exercise improves health in all age groups including older adults. For those individuals with heart disease, exercise training has been shown to:

  1. Reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress obesity
  2. Improve your aerobic capacity and your tolerance to exercise by allowing you to perform activities with lower heart rates
  3. Lower your resting heart rate and blood pressure
  4. Reduce anxiety and depression
  5. Increase your bone density, joint flexibility, and muscle efficiency

In addition to outlining these benefits of an exercise program, the American Heart Association and the American Association of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation have emphasized that a key fundamental for any cardiac rehabilitation program is a secondary prevention program. HCR ManorCare provides an interdisciplinary but individualized approach to delivering medical and rehabilitation interventions to cardiac patients that allows for restoration of function, accommodation to dysfunction and prevention of coronary disability.

Cardiac Rehabilitation for patients who have suffered a cardiac event or who have undergone a cardiac procedure progresses in phases depending on one's level of recovery:

Phase 1: The Acute Phase

The acute rehabilitation phase, characterized by early mobilization with cardiac monitoring, is initiated in the hospital by trained therapists.

Phase 1b: The Functional Phase

The subacute rehabilitation phase uses inpatient rehabilitation in an acute or skilled rehabilitation setting to assist with early mobilization, strengthening and functional mobility.

Phase 2: The Outpatient Phase

The outpatient, training, phase of cardiac rehabilitation, is supervised by trained therapists. Typically, the cardiac training program is 2 sessions weekly for up to 8 weeks.

Phase 3: The Maintenance Phase

The maintenance phase of cardiac conditioning is essential to the success of the program. This program is lifelong.

The American Heart Association Guidelines for Physical Activity[1]

Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger. You may not only notice a “feel good sensation” immediately following your physical activity, but most people also note an improvement in general well-being over time during the weeks and months as physical activity becomes a part of your routine.

How many of us are doing the recommended level?

Many Americans are not as active as they should be as evidenced by the high rate of obesity in our society. Additionally, as we age, people also become less physically active. According to the Centers for Disease Control, less than half of all adults achieve the physical activity guidelines as described on the next page.

How do I get started at home?

Any individual with a chronic health condition such as cardiac disease, diabetes or arthritis should consult their physician before beginning an exercise program. Your medical provider and physical therapist will discuss your exercise program as you prepare to leave the post- acute center. They can assist you in choosing an activity that you enjoy (such as walking) and that you are physically able to perform.

It’s helpful to exercise with someone else to keep each other motivated and compliant with the exercise commitment. Remember that exercise is a habit so stick with it and you will benefit!

You may also want to look into community resources such as programs offered at the YMCA or senior community center. 

What resources are available to help?

There are many great resources for starting an exercise program. Remember to discuss any activity with your provider before undertaking! Some Internet websites have on-line logs to track your progress or “apps” to find and measure walking paths. A few suggested resources are:

American Heart Association 
Start Walking Now program 

www.StartWalkingNow.org

National Institutes for Health/National Institute on Aging
Go 4 Life program 

http://go4life.nia.nih.gov

Order exercise and physical activity publications for free at: 
http://newcart.niapublications.org/shopdisplayproducts.aspx?id=5&cat=Exercise+And+Physical+Activity

 

[1] Centers for Disease Control.
http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.html