Develop a Physical Activity Plan for You

Work with your doctor on a physical activity plan that works for your needs and abilities. Your doctor will tell you what activities you should avoid and what signs and symptoms to monitor.

To stay healthy and keep doing the things you enjoy, health experts recommend incorporating all three types of physical activities:

  • Aerobic exercise to strengthen and keep your heart healthy.
  • Strength exercises to keep other muscles of the body in good condition and help your sense of balance.
  • Stretching exercises to keep muscles flexible.

Building Up

If you've recently had a heart attack or other cardiac event or have had heart surgery or a cardiac procedure, it may take a while to reach your physical activity goal. Work with your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation specialist to establish a routine for you. As you feel ready and as your health care team allows, start to increase the amount of physical activity you do. Work up to at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activities each week, along with stretching and strengthening exercises at least two days per week, or whatever treatment goal your health care team recommends.

Keeping a log of your physical activity can help you monitor your progress and celebrate your successes.

Or, if you prefer to track your progress "offline," download a printable activity log (PDF)

Thumbnail Graphic of Activity Log

Stretching, Strength and Balance

The Stretching Exercises and Strength and Balance Exercises will help you learn simple activities. You can do these activities at home, work or even when you're on vacation. All you need is a straight-backed, armless chair and two hand weights. Weights can be books, bottles of water or cans of food weighing about one to two pounds. You can work up to heavier weights as you get stronger.

If you had surgery, it's important not to push, pull, twist your body, or lift anything heavier than five pounds for up to six weeks after your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should avoid other movements or activities.

You'll repeat each activity six to eight times (repetitions, or "reps"). One group of repetitions is called a set. As your fitness improves, you can increase the number of repetitions. You can also rest a couple of minutes and do another set.

Make sure that you're wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and tennis shoes. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Download our patient information sheet: How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life? English (PDF) | Spanish (PDF)