Working Out Safely After a Heart Attack

Working Out Safely After a Heart Attack

Worried that exercise may hurt your body after a heart attack?

“Nonsense,” says Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee. “You need to get sign-off from your doctor, but it is definitely important to start exercising right after having a heart attack. The only way you will get your energy and functional capacity back is through exercise.”

Why is it so important to exercise after having a heart attack? According to Dr. Young: “You will most likely be put on blood pressure medications and lipid lowering medications, but there is a possibility that medications can be reduced or even removed with regular exercise.”

Here are Dr. Young’s top tips post-heart attack:


One of the best workouts you can do after a heart attack is walking. As you become stronger, you want to be walking briskly and still be able to carry on a conversation.

To start a walking routine, begin just walking around your house, around your yard and going up and down stairs. From there, try walking for three or four minutes, then taking a break for two minutes and starting again. Try to get up to walking 30 to 45 minutes at once.

Walking is so beneficial because it uses a lot of muscles. You are using all of your leg muscles and your abdominal and back muscles to keep yourself upright. As you swing your arms, you are using your arm muscles. The more muscles you use, the better it is for your aerobic health.

Studies have even found that walking trumps massage for improving life after a stroke and that post-stroke walking programs improve stroke survivors’ lives. You can make walking social by starting or joining a walking club.

Strength training

After a heart attack, some resistance exercises are beneficial. You can start with bicep curls without weight. Start small and work your way up to eight or 12 of those as a set. Do two or three sets and when that gets easy, grab a can of soup to start doing it with a little weight.

Avoid hot yoga

Dr. Young recommends avoiding hot yoga. The extra heat will put an extra strain on your heart. Gentle yoga can be fine, but walking is typically more beneficial.

Dr. Young recommends resistance training twice a week along with daily walking.