Heart Failure: Being Active

One woman and one man doing water aerobics with weights in pool.

You have a condition called heart failure. Being active doesn’t mean that you have to wear yourself out. Even a little movement each day helps to strengthen your heart. If you can’t get out to exercise, you can do simple stretching and strengthening exercises at home. These are good ways to keep you well-conditioned and prevent you and your heart from becoming excessively weak.

Ideas to get you started

  • Add a little movement to things you do now. Walk to mail letters. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk to the store. Walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator.

  • Choose activities you enjoy. You might walk, swim, or ride an exercise bike. Things like gardening and washing the car count, too. Other possibilities include: washing dishes, walking the dog, walking around the mall, and doing aerobic activities with friends.

  • Join a group exercise program at a YMCA or YWCA, a senior center, or a community center. Or look into a hospital cardiac rehabilitation program. Ask your doctor if you qualify.

Tips to keep you going

  • Get up and get dressed each day. Go to a coffee shop and read a newspaper or go somewhere that you'll be in the presence of other active people. You’ll feel more like being active.

  • Make a plan. Choose one or more activities that you enjoy and that you can easily do. Then plan to do at least one each day. You might write your plan on a calendar.

  • Go with a friend or a group if you like company. This can help you feel supported and stay motivated, too.

  • Plan social events that you enjoy. This will keep you mentally engaged as well as physically motivated to do things you find pleasure in.

For your safety

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

  • Exercise indoors when it’s too hot or too cold outside, or when the air quality is poor. Try walking at a shopping mall.

  • Wear socks and sturdy shoes to maintain your balance and prevent falls.

  • Start slowly. Do a few minutes several times a day at first. Increase your time and speed little by little.

  • Stop and rest whenever you feel tired or get short of breath.

  • Don’t push yourself on days when you don’t feel well.