Exercise and Heart Disease Part II

By Warren Selkow, Patient and Exercise Hater

Heart Disease Exercise Agony of Da Feet

There are several questions you must address and answer before you can get serious about exercise. Or, don’t bother understanding the principle issues and don’t bother exercising. In which case I would advise you to ignore everything, consider keeping on with your bad habits and just go off and die somewhere, like a sick cat. Bye-bye. For the rest of you here is a list of questions to answer:

  1. What exercises are best for me?
  2. What equipment should I consider buying?
  3. Where can I go to exercise?
  4. What goals should I set for myself?
  5. What other issues must I understand to make my exercise the most productive?

Heart disease best practice exercising

Face the fact that you are probably fairly well de-conditioned. In other words, you have not gotten off you butt for a long time and now a flight of stairs is a pretty big deal. You have probably already begged your doctor to allow you to get a "handicapped" license so you can minimize the distance you will need to walk from the parking lot to the restaurant and super market. Well, good for you, then, lard butt.

This is just another way you can rationalize your lack of activity and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. "Oh, look at poor me. I am sick. I am handicapped. Feel sorry for me." Nobody does and nobody will so get over that. In fact, most people will see you with your handicapped sticker, think you look like you are okay, and think you are more mentally handicapped than physically disabled.

The exercises you must do all have some common characteristics. Those characteristics are:

  1. They are all low impact. In a nutshell this means you will not strain either your heart or muscles doing the exercises.
  2. The exercises are designed to build endurance and stamina.
  3. The exercises will gradually build heart and muscle tone.
  4. The exercises will not exhaust you. It is perfectly permissible if you are tired after exercising. It is not good if you feel like you could just drop down.

If you read The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases, you learned I am one for listing the cogent points for understanding. We understand the value of lists and exercising requires lists and record keeping. By definition, exercise requires a schedule that includes:

  1. When you will exercise
  2. Where you will exercise
  3. What exercises you will do
  4. How long you will do those exercises
  5. Why you will do those exercises
  6. What metrics you are trying to achieve by doing the exercises
  7. Who is required to either monitor or participate with you

Additionally, the exercise regime must have ground rules. The heart disease exercise ground rules are:

  1. The exercises are mildly aerobic. The exercises will only minimally raise your heartbeat and keep it slightly elevated for several minutes up to the total time you are performing any specific exercise.
  2. You must rest for several minutes between performing different exercises. The rest period allows for the heart slow down. This is one of the important tricks to build stamina and endurance.
  3. You must do different exercises and work as many muscle groups as possible.
  4. It is nice if the exercises will not bore you to absolute tears and you quit not because the exercise is too hard but because it is too mind numbing.

The Best Exercises for Heart Disease

Having categorically stated the criteria above for heart disease exercising here is the total list of the very best in class:

  1. Swimming is without a doubt the best exercise in the world for a recovering heart patient. It is low impact. It simultaneously works the most number of muscles groups. You can start very slowly doing as little as a single lap at a time and gradually increasing both time and distance as you improve. The only drawback is the need for a swimming pool.
  2. Walking is number two on the hit parade of best exercises. It is weight bearing. You can start slowly and build yourself up to walk longer and farther. The list of places to walk is virtually endless. It is free.

Heart Disease Exercise Equipment

In case you don’t know, exercise equipment is expensive. Of course, exercising in a facility that charges for service is also expensive. Whether you exercise on equipment you buy for your home or in an exercise facility that has all the equipment, the IRS will allow you to write off as a legitimate medical exemption, the costs. Being the generous folks they are, the IRS will even allow you to write off travel expenses to and from the exercise facility. If you exercise often, this will add up to quite a few bucks. All you need is a prescription from your cardiologist, which will be quickly supplied.

The equipment that is appropriate is:

  • Treadmill – Many cardiologists consider the treadmill the quintessential exercise devise. A treadmill is a weight bearing exercise and will allow for a gradual increase in tone, stamina and endurance. The only drawbacks are size and the limitation of only exercising the legs.
  • Stationary bike – The bike is compact, does not take much space and delivers a good regime. Like the treadmill, it only exercises the lower body.
  • The Air-dyne and the Nu-step – Both pieces of equipment work both the arms and the legs. Both are rather compact and both deliver a good workout if properly used.
  • Weights – Lightweights, barbells up to fifteen pounds, are great for developing muscle tone. It is important to remember the idea is not to try to become Charles Atlas or Mr. Universe.

There are many machines available that all promise to make you look and feel like an athlete. The machines are expensive and are advertised to be available on easy payment plans. You will quickly notice all the users of the equipment will be in really good shape. It is not to say the spokespeople don’t really use the equipment. It is to say they are all professional models. There are two pieces of advice to follow regarding the pitch for the equipment:

  1. Don’t believe any of the claims.
  2. Don’t believe any of the claims.

A trip to the local Good Will Store will demonstrate the long-term benefits of those machines. Every day there are column inch after column inch in the want ad sections of the local newspaper of all that equipment for sale at greatly reduce prices. Why do you think that is? You can pick up a really good deal on a Nordic Track, which is way too strenuous for a recovering heart disease patient.

Where to go to get Heart Disease Exercise

If nothing else is true, there is no lack of places willing to take your money to allow you to work out. Depending on the exercises you are willing to do, and the equipment you are willing to invest in here are your options:

  • Your own home is a good place to exercise. It is free. You can walk in your neighbor or you can go to the local enclosed mall or very large store. The malls and the large stores like people to come walk around. A daily walk of two miles at a moderate rate is a perfect exercise. An hour walk in the sun on a mild day is good for body and mind.
  • Many neighborhoods have community centers that offer exercise and swimming. Many are free or have a modest cost.
  • Hospitals that specialize in cardiac care usually have cardio-pulmonary rehab facilities. This is an ideal situation. These facilities have all the best equipment and, if you are a prescribed user, a very modest fee. They also have trained and skilled nurses as part of the staff.
  • The local gym and work out center. You are pretty much on your own here.

Heart Disease Exercise Goal Setting

It is very important to set some goals for any exercise regime. Here is the list of goals:

  1. The specific exercises you will do on a regular basis
  2. The amount of time you will do those exercises.
  3. The schedule you will exercise on
  4. The total number of hours a day or week you will exercise

Exercise goals are ever changing until you reach some equilibrium of time spent exercising and perceived benefit. A good recommendation for the total amount of time dedicated to exercise a week is seven to ten hours. This is not as much time or as hard as it may appear. A daily two-mile walk will take an hour at a leisurely pace.

Heart disease exercise other issues

Exercise is the single most important item is getting and staying well. That is the only issue of any importance. Exercise is not an option.

The Simplified Handbook for
Living with Heart Disease
and Other Chronic Diseases

This comprehensive, doctor reviewed and approved book explains heart disease from a patientís perspective. Without complicated medical mumbo-jumbo, this blunt and hilarious book is a total lifesaver.