Despite its name, individuals with chronic heart failure can still be active and will most likely benefit from an active lifestyle. 


Why be active

  • Strengthen your heart
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Have more energy to do your day to day chores
  • Feel less out of breath and fitter
  • Feel better and reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and tiredness
  • Increase your good cholesterol
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Preparing for Activity 

  • Check with your doctor or cardiologist to see what types and amounts of activities are ideal for you. 
  • Those with decompensated or class IV New York Heart Association are contraindicated to exercise. 
  • If you have been prescribed them, always carry your nitroglycerin pills/spray with you.
  • If you have been given specific exercise heart-rate zones or intensity zones make sure you understand what they are. Using a heart rate monitor to keep an eye on your heart rate could be useful. 
  • Some medication may alter how your heart reacts to exercise or limit how fast your heart can beat. 
  • A good warm-up is always recommended. Start with gentle activity and gradually increase the intensity over 10 minutes before achieving your target heart rate or intensity zone. 
  • Avoid extremes in temperature such as high heat, humidity, or extreme cold. 
  • Always cool down after exercise. After you are done your session, do gradually less intense exercise over 10 minutes to help your body return to its resting state. For example; walking slowly, or easy spinning with very little or no resistance on a stationary bike. 
  • After the cool down is a good time to do stretching exercises. 
  • Keep a log book of your physical activity. In it write what you did, for how long and how hard. Also write down how your felt that day and if you noticed anything different. 
  • Keep track of your weight on a daily basis. Also be aware of any increased or new swelling or edema. 

Recommended Activities

Generally any activity where you exercise at a low to moderate intensity are ideal. Both aerobic exercises (walking, cycling, etc.) and resistance exercises (using resistance bands, yard work, etc.) are beneficial. The length and frequency at which you are active should be progressively increased over a long period of time. 

You might be able to exercise at a vigorous intensity but it is best to consult with your doctor or a qualified exercise professional first. 

It is recommended that contact sports should be avoided. Activities where you hold (i.e. power lifting) your breath are also not recommended.

Swimming or water exercises can be done in those whose condition is stable. Pool water should be neutral, patients should be fine lying down at home before attempting swimming, and sessions should be supervised by a qualified exercise professional who understands the effects of water dynamics on chronic heart failure. 

Isometric exercises (where your muscles contract against a load that does not move) are not recommended because of the increased load the place upon the heart