For many people, being diagnosed with heart disease is a wake-up call to start living a healthier lifestyle, including exercise. But if you or a loved one has recently had heart surgery, vigorous exercise can be dangerous. It’s important to ease into (or ease back into) exercise after surgery of any kind.
Walking is one of the best post-surgery exercises you can do. When you’re first starting out with walking, bring someone with you. Don’t worry about walking fast; instead, focus on how long you are able to walk. It may be safer to repeat a short distance multiple times — such as walking around the block — so that you can stay close to home if you get tired or need help, rather than walking a far distance and possibly getting stranded.
Don’t try to walk in extreme heat, cold, or bad weather. Shopping malls are a great place to walk because they are climate-controlled and there are people nearby if you need assistance. Window shopping can also be a great way to avoid getting bored while walking. Dress comfortably and wear comfortable shoes.
It can seem like walking is the only exercise you’re allowed to for a while, but you’ll also have specific rehabilitation exercises. After surgery, it’s normal to find even gentle walking or physical therapy exercises to be exhausting. Your body is using a lot of energy to recover from surgery and deal with pain, so don’t push too hard. This can be frustrating for someone who’s eager to start or return to a more active lifestyle, but pacing yourself while you heal is more important in the long run.
Concerned about your risk for heart disease? Take our 5 minute heart health assessment.