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The Best Cardio Exercise for Heart Patients

author image Laura Niedziocha
Laura Niedziocha began her writing career in 2007. She has contributed material to the Stoneking Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Lambertville, N.J., and her work has appeared in various online publications. Niedziocha graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She also has her Associate of Arts in communications from the Community College of Philadelphia.
The Best Cardio Exercise for Heart Patients
Walking with friends is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Like any other muscle in the body, the heart responds to exertional stimulus. Moderate physical activity to can do wonders to improve the functional capacity of the heart. According to the American Heart Association, many people with heart issues experience a myriad of benefits when they start a physical activity routine. The best kind of cardiovascular exercise for the heart is regular, moderately intense exercise, the most recommended form of which is walking or bicycling.

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Who is a Heart Patient?

The term heart disease comprises more than 20 diseases of the heart and vessels, including high blood pressure and stroke, according to authors Waneen W. Spiriduso, Karen L. Francis and Priscilla G. MacRae in their book "Physical Dimensions of Aging." The American Heart Association states that those with any of the following ailments are considered heart patients: abnormal exercise test indicating ischemia, angina, heart attack, coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart transplant, cardiomyopathy, valve disease, hypertension and/or pacemaker.

How to Start

If you're a heart patient, always get your doctor's approval before starting any exercise program. In most cases, the doctor will refer you to a qualified professional for evaluation and program design. If you've had a recent cardiac event, the doctor might refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program. Cardiac rehabilitation provides professionals to help begin a safe and effective exercise program, states the American Heart Association. These professionals include physicians, nurses and exercise physiologists. Cardiac rehab also usually includes counseling and education to aid in the healing process.

Type of Cardio

The type of cardio you do is an important consideration when you're a heart patient. The most recommended form of cardio is walking or bicycling, both of which provide low-impact ways to safely and slowly increase the heart rate. The American College of Sports Medicine indicates that exercises should involve large muscle groups and be rhythmic or dynamic. Do a warm up, cool down and a moderately intense conditioning phase.

Amount of Cardio

Exercise can be extremely beneficial for a heart patient, but the program has to be both safe and effective. A moderately intense exercise program is recommended to achieve improved cardiac function. George A. Brooks and Thomas D. Fahey, in their book "Exercise Physiology," indicate that lower intensity activities do not appreciably improve fitness and highly intense levels of activity may put undue stress on the heart. Therefore, moderately intense exercise is the optimal for providing health benefits.The National Institute on Aging explains that endurance exercise or cardio should be performed for 30 minutes on most, preferably all, days of the week. Endurance exercises increase the heart rate and keep it up for an extended period of time.


Exercise training can benefit the heart patient both physically and mentally. A regular exercise program can make your heart and body stronger, and can also improve mood. Brooks and Fahey state that exercise training in people with coronary heart disease improves exercise capacity. In other words, regular activities become easier. The body and heart become trained. This means that activities of daily living, such as grocery shopping, gardening and walking up a flight of stairs, become easier on the muscles of the body and heart.

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