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Physical Exercise After an Angioplasty

By Gary Benedict ; Updated August 14, 2017

The thought of exercising after an angioplasty can provoke feelings of fear and uncertainty. Could exercise trigger a heart attack? How hard should you exercise? What are safe exercises to perform? These are all common questions you can have after going through the angioplasty procedure. The reality of the situation is that you can return to previous levels of exercise and adapt to an active lifestyle if you follow a safe and gradual plan.

Consider a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

The safest way to return to exercise after an angioplasty is to join a monitored cardiac rehab program. Most local hospitals run Phase II programs that are conducted in an outpatient setting. Your heart function is observed with a simple portable telemetry unit that monitors heart rate and rhythm. You will be instructed by a qualified staff that usually employs registered nurses, exercise physiologists and a variety of other health professionals. Exercises usually consist of aerobic activities such as walking on a treadmill, riding exercise cycles and recumbent bikes, and using rowing machines, as well as lifting light weights or using pulley systems. The staff monitors your progress over time and provides feedback to your cardiologist. After completing a rehab period of eight to 12 weeks, you are discharged and encouraged to continue to exercise at home or a local gym.

Aerobic Exercise Is the Way to Go

The best way for you to improve heart function is to focus on aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity is exercise that places a demand on your cardiovascular system. This typically involves exercises that incorporate the musculature of the lower and upper extremities and are performed for extended periods of time. Examples include walking, jogging, cycling and swimming. Scientific and medical research has documented that when performed at the appropriate intensity, duration and frequency, aerobic exercise has a profoundly beneficial effect on your cardiovascular system.

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How Much Is Enough

The American College of Sports Medicine exercise guidelines call for you to perform aerobic exercise a minimum of four days per week to reap the benefits. The intensity of exercise needs to be sufficient to tax your cardiovascular system while still maintaining a safe level of participation. This involves monitoring your heart rate and keeping the rate at prescribed levels that are usually based on the results of an exercise stress test. The duration of your exercise session is usually 30 to 45 minutes. However, if you are sedentary, start off with smaller segments of time that can range from five to 10 minutes. As adaptation occurs, you can gradually increase exercise time to eventually achieve the goal of 45 minutes per session. Each period of activity should also start off with five minutes of a warm-up and end with five minutes of a cool-down exercise.

Returning to an Active Lifestyle

You can minimize the fear of returning to an exercise program after an angioplasty procedure with a well-constructed exercise regimen. After obtaining the appropriate exercise prescription and advice from medical professionals, you can resume a normal activity level and profit from the cardiovascular protective benefits of regular exercise.

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