Is There a Best Exercise for Heart Failure Patients?
Spoiler alert! There is no one best exercise. Every type of exercise has its own benefit. If anyone tells you there is one best exercise for you, besides a member of your care team, they are probably wrong. The best exercise, if cleared to choose anyone you want, is one you enjoy the most and will be able to do long term. Sure, I could tell you running or powerlifting is the best exercise, but if you hate it and eventually quit, it is not beneficial at all.
Cardio targets the circulatory system. Over time, your body will become better at utilizing oxygen and nutrients, and your heart may pump more efficiently. There are many types of cardio. Jogging, elliptical, biking, hiking, and swimming to name a few. If you perform an action consistently and it raises your heart rate to your target heart rate, you are doing a form of cardio. Before performing any cardio, make sure you know restrictions and your target and max heart rate. Do not get these from the internet. Your doctor should be able to provide you with these numbers based on your condition.
Swimming, elliptical, and biking are probably the three best as far as stress on your joints. Jogging, hiking, and other impact exercises can cause damage to joints over time. However, do not let potential damage stop you from doing them. Listen to your body, rest when needed, and not overdoing a workout can minimize or eliminate potential injury. If I had to pick the best exercise in the cardio group, I would choose swimming. It works all the major muscles of your body at the same time and puts essentially no stress on your body. The major downside to any form of cardio, which you should take into account is most cardio is not designed to preserve muscle mass or help as much with bone density.
Weight and resistance training
A common misconception, especially with women, is weight training will cause you to look muscular and too bulky. This simply is not true. Weight and resistance training can be used to preserve and increase muscle mass. Another added benefit is the preservation and the possible increase in bone density. This type of training is superior to any other for bone health.
Weight and resistance training can be done in many different ways, from bodyweight exercises to using weights and machines in a gym or at home. A good alternative to weights is the use of resistance bands. They are inexpensive in comparison to weights. For people looking to tone up and become healthier, they offer the same benefits as expensive weights and machines. The downside to weights is the use of proper form to prevent injury. Also, those with implanted devices may have restrictions on the range of motion, so on top of getting clearance to begin weight training, you will also want to specifically ask about the range of motion limitations.
Mix it up
For overall body health, the best idea is to mix up cardio and weight or resistance training during the week. Weight training can double as cardio if you use the right intensity to keep your heart rate in the target range for the entire workout, or at least 20-30 minutes straight as allowed per your doctor. Start slow and easy, building yourself up over time. This will reduce injury and should help you succeed. Build up to a minimum of 5 days a week moderate-intensity workout, or as close as you can with a doctor’s clearance. This should maximize the effectiveness and benefits of working out.
What's your favorite type of exercise? Share in the comments below!
What type of heart failure have you been diagnosed with?