Can I exercise if I have congestive heart failure?

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If you have congestive heart failure (CHF), you may still be able to be physically active if you get clearance from your doctor and strictly follow that doctor’s recommendations. Your exercise recommendations will be tailored specifically for you, but here are some general guidelines you can keep in mind:
  • If you have congestive heart failure, you may be able to increase your physical activity if your doctor gives you the go-ahead. Research shows exercise improves the exercise capacity, overall function, and quality of life of people with CHF. Further, physical activity may help prevent the development of CHF if you don’t already have it.
  • However, if your heart failure is related to valve disease, you may not be able to participate in some forms of exercise, particularly those that are vigorous. Discuss with your doctor what types of exercise, if any, are appropriate for you.
  • Check with your doctor to find out if you qualify for a cardiac rehabilitation program, which includes a carefully monitored exercise program for your safety.
  • Make sure each time you do physical activity, you include adequate warm-up and cool down periods. In people with heart failure, these periods may need to last longer than the usual 5 to 10 minutes; usually at least 10 to 15 minutes is recommended.
  • An appropriate duration for each physical activity session is usually 20 to 30 minutes at any intensity that is tolerated.
  • Most studies have used 3 to 5 sessions of physical activity per week. Consider a day of rest between sessions to prevent exhaustion.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.