Consistently Exercising

One of the directives I, along with many heart failure patients, have received from their cardiac medical team is consistent exercise is important. I can also tell you that I see my heart failure team every 6 months, and in those appointments one of the questions is "how often are you exercising, (how many minutes a session and how many sessions a week) and what type of exercises do you do?"

I am pretty sure that exercise helps the heart muscle itself, although the how and why of that I will leave to a doctor. However, my heart failure doctor has also told me that exercise is important for functionality because the body is full of muscles, and all muscles when they fall out of shape need more oxygen to function. And remember, with heart failure your body cannot pump oxygen rich blood like it once could. So, the more I keep the rest of my body in shape the more I will be able to do more with less, and thus have overall better functionality.

For me, that is key. If there is anything I can do to keep my functionality I am all in. Quality of life is very important to me.

So, I want to share this important fact about exercising in case other people find it helpful. Exercise, along with other directives from our medical teams, is something that we can control to have a positive impact on our ability to live our lives.

However, knowing something is important does not make it easy to implement.

Tips for how to consistently exercise with heart failure

I understand that life gets hard AND our disease causes fatigue among other symptoms, which can make exercising hard.

So, what systems can we implement to help increase our odds of consistently exercising? Below are some things I have found helpful and hope it helps others along the way too!

Scheduling is KEY

Either keep a mental note of like Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do X, and Tuesday and Thursday I do Y, or keep it on a calendar. Having it written down helps you have more accountability.

Also, when you get tired be mindful of how you spend your energy. Planning on how you will exercise, and what you need to exercise is not the best use of your energy. Have a plan ready so you do not have to think about it.

Build a routine

For some reason, when it's a part of my routine exercising somehow feels easier to do. I was an avid runner pre heart attack, and I would have said the same thing about exercising at that point as well.

Be realistic

Don't set crazy goals because then you may get discouraged if you do not achieve them. Set realistic goals that are achievable. Look to my previous article on SMART goal planning if you would like additional information.

Add variety

For me, incorporating variety in my exercise routine helps keep it interesting. Most people, myself included, are more likely to do things that are fun. It does not have to be big.

Maybe in the Spring weather you take a walk in your favorite park a few days a week instead of just in your neighborhood? Maybe you plan a walk with your partner 1 day a week? Or even my partner and I have a grocery store that is relatively close, and when the weather is cooperating he will wear a backpack for the groceries, and we walk to the store.

Be creative but try and incorporate variety into your routine.

Don't give up.

Truly. If you fall off the horse, get back on. This is tough. Truly. Do not make it tougher by also incorporating shame into your life as well. You do not need nor deserve it. And when it's hard, don't forget to ask for a hug as well!

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