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Exercises With a Pacemaker

By Lauren Treadwell

Pacemakers are small, artificial devices designed to stimulate the heart and regulate its rate of beating. They are usually surgically implanted into patients suffering from irregular heartbeats, but there are also external varieties for temporary problems. Pacemakers send electricity through wires or leads into the heart’s sinus node in the right upper chamber. According to AHealthyMe.com, healthy sinus nodes are responsible for producing electrical currents that tell the heart when to beat.

Fears About Exercising with a Pacemaker

Traditionally people have had two main concerns when it comes exercising with a pacemaker. The first is that pacemaker patients cannot tolerate exercise and it can cause serious complications. The second is that exercising can displace the pacemaker wires that carry electrical signals to the heart. According to Joseph Bronzino, author of The Biomedical Engineering Handbook, the first fear is no longer based in fact. Historically, pacemakers had fixed rates (like a metronome), meaning that a patient’s heart would only be able to beat slightly faster when he was performing exercises. This, of course, could cause problems if the person’s body required more blood oxygenation and circulation. However, today modern pacemakers are able to adapt to exercise and increase their rates when necessary.

Should You Exercise With a Pacemaker?

According to BaylorHealth.edu, the fear of dislocating leads is also unwarranted. So essentially, all varieties of exercise are available to pacemaker patients, including weightlifting. The BaylorHealth.edu study showed that patients who performed range-of-motion resistance testing (lifting weights) immediately following pacemaker surgery suffered no lead displacement or any other complications. Baylor Health used these results to argue against immobilizing joints (often pacemaker patients are given arm slings) following surgery, which can lead to muscle deterioration, joint pain and soreness, and decreased strength and range of motion. Also, according to Baylor Heatlh, when physicians tell patients to not lift heavy objects for the first few days, or to take it easy following surgery, they may be causing unnecessary nervousness and fear, as pacemakers start functioning as soon as they are implanted. That being said, you should always speak with a physician following surgery to see what is recommended, as other medical conditions may interfere with exercise.

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