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10 Heart-Healthy Exercises to Recommend to Patients


Most people dread hearing the well-worn health advice, “Get more exercise.” Thoughts of marathon running and endless sets of dumbbell curls come to mind. Few people enjoy sweating and feeling their muscles burn from exertion.


But if you’re a healthcare practitioner who treats people with heart disease, you know you must find a way to convince your patients to exercise. At Vasolabs, we partner with healthcare providers across the nation providing affordable and convenient heart diagnostic solutions. Sometimes practitioners ask us, “Do you have any tips for getting patients to exercise more?”


We do! The trick is to focus less on the exercise and more on the enjoyment. Few people like running five miles, but most people like reducing stress, exploring nature, and completing new challenges. We’ve also found that suggesting patients try local groups and clubs increases engagement with heart-healthy activities. You may want to keep an eye on local Facebook groups or community forums so that next time a patient says they like volleyball, you can say, “I think there’s a group in our city that’s hosting local tournaments.”   


This list of 10 exercises will give any health practitioner inspiration for heart-healthy exercises that don’t remind patients of their high school gym class.


10 Heart-Healthy Exercises

We want our patients to get out and get active. At the end of the day, we don’t really care what activity they’re doing. The trick is to help them find an exercise they enjoy, which will lead to long-term habits that promote heart health.


1. Yoga

Patients can reduce stress and increase their heart rates at the same time with yoga sessions. If patients are reluctant and say that yoga is little more than deep breathing and sitting on mats, challenge them to take a hot yoga class at their local gym. Yoga requires incredible athleticism!


2. Walking and Hiking

Exercise doesn’t have to be the focus of heart-healthy activities. Sometimes flowers and natural beauty can take center stage. Nature enthusiasts can get their heart rates up while strolling through a city park or hiking near local rivers and streams.


3. Rock Climbing 

Most cities will host at least one rock climbing gym, and this can be an excellent exercise for people who love conquering defined challenges. Rock climbing gyms will mark out specific routes of varying difficulty. It’s easy to measure progress and see yourself improve week after week!


4. Swimming

Does a patient with heart disease also have joint issues? Swimming is a low-impact activity that also raises the heart rate. An hour of moderate swimming can even burn up to 500 calories.


5. Kayaking

Who doesn’t like spending a sunny day at the lake bobbing on the water? Depending on the location, kayaking is a relaxing way to strengthen the heart. Even loading and unloading the kayak will raise the heart rate. 


6. Gardening

Anyone who’s pulled a stubborn weed will know just how active gardening can be. Again, gardening is rarely about the exercise. People are motivated to flex their green thumbs because they love improving their homes and eating fresh produce.


7. Shopping

The rise of online commerce has cut the cardio out of the shopping experience. But there’s still something special about visiting a shopping mall and walking through your favorite stores. The average department store is 250,000 square feet, which means even a small shopping mall will provide ample opportunity to get those steps in.


8. Redecorating Your Home

Does a patient have an eye for design? Encourage them to redo their living room or guest room. Laying down plastic covering, painting, and moving furniture require physical movement. Redecorating might not be a weekly habit, but every little bit of exercise helps.


9. Singing

Research shows that singing can improve heart and lung function. “Patients with heart disease who underwent 14-minute sessions of supervised singing were able to improve their vascular health and lower their risk of future cardiovascular disease events.” Listening to music has also been shown to improve heart health outcomes.


10. Pickle Ball

Tennis can be intimidating to many amateurs if they’ve never swung a racket before. But a fun alternative is a new sport called Pickle Ball. The sport finds a happy medium between tennis and ping pong and uses a Wiffle ball to slow the pace of play. It’s becoming popular across the country!


Risk Factors Associated with Exercise and Heart Disease

It’s always important to assess the type and severity of heart disease before recommending an exercise regimen. As a rule of thumb, people should aim for a target heart rate of 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate. If patients ask how they can calculate this percentage, tell them to subtract their age from 220 and multiply by .75. 


Tell patients that if they notice signs of heart abnormalities, they should stop exercising immediately. These signs include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest pain, and unusual swelling in the feet or ankles. Rest is just as important as exercise for managing your condition.


Also, people with heart valve disease should avoid heavy lifting and other exercises that can cause straining or grunting, such as situps. These sorts of activities can rapidly raise a person’s blood pressure, putting strain on your heart.


Remind patients that while exercise is important, over-exertion can also be dangerous to their health.


Spend Time with Patients to Discover Exercises They Enjoy

Vasolabs is proud to partner with many alternative medicine providers across the country. Our partners include functional medicine practitioners, direct primary care, lifestyle clinicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and nutritionists. We know these kinds of providers can spend quality time with patients and get to know them as people. We encourage you to leverage your patient relationships to provide personalized treatment plans. 

Reach out to our team today to learn more about the affordable and convenient heart diagnostic tools available from Vasolabs.


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