Exercise and Your Heart

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(608) 263-1530
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Should you begin a regular exercise program? For most of us, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the potential risks.
  • More energy for work and recreational activities
  • Less stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue
  • Improved efficiency of the heart and lungs
  • Weight maintenance or loss of excess weight
  • Improved blood cholesterol levels
  • Improved blood pressure control
  • Reduced risk of heart attack

Potential Risks

  • Muscle or joint injuries
  • Heat exhaustion (when exercising outdoors on extremely hot days)
  • Aggravation of existing or hidden heart problems

Consulting a Doctor


Most people don't need to see a doctor before they start a gradual, sensible exercise program. However, some people may be at risk. If one or more items in the following list applies to you, see your doctor before you begin a program:

  • Your doctor said you have a heart condition
  • During or right after exercise, you often have pains in your chest, neck, shoulder or arm
  • You've developed chest pain within the last month
  • You tend to get lightheaded or dizzy with activity
  • You feel extremely breathless after mild exertion
  • You take medicine for your blood pressure or a heart condition
  • Your doctor said you have bone or joint problems that could be worsened by physical activity
  • You have diabetes or another chronic medical condition which might need special attention in an exercise program
  • You are over 50 years old and have not been physically active recently, and you're planning a vigorous exercise program

If you feel any symptoms listed above when you start your exercise program, contact your doctor right away.


Walking for Heart Health


If you do not have any of the symptoms listed above, you can start a gradual, sensible exercise program. If you need an example, you may print out the following guideline and try our Sample Walking Program (pdf).