a flat style illustration of an adult woman in her home stretching to a television workout

Don't Just Sit There! Bust a Move!

As a patient with a chronic health condition, it can be a challenge to find ways to stay active without feeling like you are jeopardizing your own health. This can be especially challenging for patients with heart failure because of concerns about things like shortness of breath.

Honestly, it can seem like an impossible task depending on where you are in your heart failure journey. Not only are there physical challenges, but there are also mental ones that can make the idea of exercising simply unnerving! Here are some tips to help you.

Knowing your warning signs

Discuss plans

Know what’s a warning sign for YOU. First and foremost, discuss ANY plans with your healthcare team first. They can give you some signs/symptoms to be aware of, especially as your health condition changes.

Your threshold

For example, as a heart failure patient, I am always asked if I experience shortness of breath. Well – duh! If I’m exercising more than before I may be short of breath, but it may not be related to my heart failure. But as a patient, I may not be able to distinguish whether I’m in distress or not. However, my team advised me that one way to tell is how fast I can recover after the activity once I stop. It is important to determine what your threshold is so that you don’t overexert yourself.

Slow and steady wins the race

Gradually adding moves

Second, consider gradually adding moves into your daily routines. That’s right – don’t just stand there, bust a move! For example, you can do a few squats while getting on/off the toilet. If you are lying on your back while watching TV, do a few flutter kicks during the commercials. Don’t set unrealistic goals. You may get discouraged if you don’t meet the goal when you were expecting to do so. Why set yourself up for an emotional setback while you’re trying to overcome your physical challenges?

Staying active

Try to keep track of how many moves you can do at first. Make this your first set. With each week, gradually increase that number within one set or increase the number of sets. Remember the goal is not only to get active, but to stay active.

Be creative with your activities

From just about anywhere

Finally, consider some truly low-impact workout routines that can be done from just about anywhere as you build your stamina. It’s easy to tell someone to go for a walk. However, that may not be an option. The weather or their neighborhood conditions may be a hindrance.

Be careful

For me, I was afraid to be out alone walking because I was afraid of having an episode while alone (or while walking with my youngest child). One option is to make use of videos or apps that focus on low-impact aerobics. BE CAREFUL! Not all programs that claim to low-impact are suitable for heart patients. This is especially important if you have mechanical interventions, such as left ventricular assistance (LVAD). You can also consider using resistance bands while sitting, whether you are working from your desk or just relaxing and watching TV.

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