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Sunday, October 31, 2021

What physical exercise can be done after a heart attack?

After a heart attack, it is necessary to maintain a quiet life, but that does not mean sitting down and doing nothing. On the contrary: physical exercise is essential to recover the quality of life and above all to prevent a second heart attack.

Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in the world behind traffic accidents and cancer. In Spain, deaths due to cardiac episodes account for nearly 30% of all deaths that occur each year.

If we look only at the myocardial infarctions can affirm that in the Spanish population, about 50,000 people each year have a heart attack. The data says that if you have had a first heart attack, you have a high chance of having a second one.

The risk of having a second heart attack is high

“The repetitions are significant and usually reach around. 15% in two years, even more,” says the Dr. Manuel Abeytua, president of the Vascular Risk and Cardiac Rehabilitation Section of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC) and coordinator of Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Gregorio Marañón University Hospital (Madrid).

how to prevent a second heart attack

After a heart attack, you need to follow some guidelines to take care of yourself and prevent it from happening again.

  • Adopt healthy habits. The three fundamental pillars are: to lead a diet healthy and balanced, practice physical exercise on a regular basis, and give up tobacco if the patient smokes.
  • Correctly follow the pharmacological treatment, something that in Spain, only 50% of patients with cardiovascular problems comply with.

After a heart attack, it is necessary to attend a cardiac rehabilitation program.

But above all it is fundamental once the patient has been discharged from the hospital, attend a Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

“Cardiac rehabilitation is not only improves the quality of life but the survival, up to 27%,” says Dr. Abeytua. It’s something that, in addition, is advised by all the scientific societies.

“If in some places (hospitals) these programs are not sufficiently developed, they should be implemented” he adds. It is fundamental for the recovery of the person after the infarction, and above all, to prevent one second.

According to the Spanish Heart Foundation the benefits of making cardiac rehabilitation are:

  • Reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease of around 20-25%.
  • Lower mortality rates, as high as 21 to 34%, if cardiac rehabilitation is done compared to patients who do not do the rehabilitation.
  • Improved quality of life of patients
  • Improvement in control of risk factors of cardiovascular patients.


The specialist is the one who must determine the best type of exercise, intensity, and rhythm.

As a general rule, every person after a heart attack can and should do physical exercise. Obviously, the degree Depends on how bad the heart attack was: how well the heart’s pumping strength continues and whether any coronary arteries are still clogged.

For this reason, and according to the Spanish Heart Foundation: “If your heart after the infarction has a normal pumping force and has all the arteries ‘open’. of his heart, there is no contraindication to physical exercise.”

As Dr. Abeytua notes:

  • If a patient does not do cardiac rehabilitation it is important to exercise as well and be supervised and prescribed by your doctor.
  • A generalized way to see how much exercise a person can do and at what level is to perform a stress test.
  • The stress test will tell us the maximum heart rate we’ve had.
  • When doing physical activity, we should try not to reach that heart rate, but that that effort should be about 75% of that.
  • At the end of a month after exercising, we can already reach 85% of that maximum heart rate.

Walking one hour a day

The recommended physical activity is that which each person likes. However, one of the most advisable activities by all specialists and, that most patients can do, Is walking.

As the doctor explains, you have to do it progressively:

  • A month or a month and a half after the infarction, patients will already be able to walk one hour a day every day without forcing themselves too much.
  • The speed must be progressive and controlled by the person himself. That is if one feels short of breath while walking one should stop and then continue.
  • As that person walks daily, he will become more physically fit.
  • “walking is not going to the grocery store or shopping in the city, but rather is physical activity is itself to be done as such.
  • What is to be recommended is walking an hour a day. If a person can walk two hours, so much the better.”

It is advisable to walk at least one hour a day.

If a person was very athletic, before the heart attack, they may return to sports as long as:

  • Your heart is fine and your doctor allows it.
  • Never exceed your heart rate you have given in the stress test.

“In principle, competitive sport is contraindicated. But if the person is well and has done a lot of sport before, he/she can return to sport as long as: the effort is reasonable (according to the stress test), that he/she tries to not to compete in an extreme way and that such physical activity be supervised and monitored by your cardiologist.” concludes Dr. Abeytua.


The 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented by controlling risk factors:

  • Carrying a balanced diet that is low in fat
  • Practice physical exercise on a regular basis. According to a report published in 2014 by the World Heart Federation (World Heart Federation), the physical inactivity is responsible for 5% of cardiovascular disease.
  • Abandon the consumption of tobacco and give up the harmful use of alcohol.
  • And keep track of the risk factors cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes.
Erik Balley
Erik Bailey
20 years of experience in the fitness and physical activity sector in Barcelona, personal trainer, instructor of directed activities, nutritionist, I have worked in the most important gyms and chains in the sector.
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