Staying Active & Exercising with CAD

For some people, the idea of exercise can feel overwhelming—especially if you’re still adjusting to a coronary artery disease (CAD) diagnosis. However, adding more movement to your routine—even if it’s just a little bit—has been shown to help people with heart disease live longer and have fewer heart attacks than those who aren't physically fit.

Tips to make exercising with CAD manageable

Start small.

If you don’t think you can manage 30–40 minutes of activity, that’s okay. Begin with smaller, 10–15-minute increments a couple of times a day.

Work gradually toward your goals.

Anything you can do to move more today is great! As you get stronger, you can increase the amount of time you are active.

Walking counts.

It’s the simplest change you can make to improve your heart health. It costs nothing, you can do it with friends, and it’s easy to work into your daily routine.

The American Heart Association recommends the following routine for a heart-healthy lifestyle:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5 days per week
  • OR 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity 3 days per week
  • OR a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity

Consider adding moderate- to high-intensity strength training at least 2 days per week for extra health benefits.

Moderate aerobic activity examples:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling (<10 miles per hour)
  • Water aerobics
  • Doubles tennis
  • Ballroom dancing
  • General gardening

Vigorous aerobic activity examples:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Cycling (>10 miles per hour)
  • Swimming laps
  • Singles tennis
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
  • Jumping rope
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

Monitor the level of your activity

Certain activities may be easier for some than for others. A simple way to tell whether an activity is moderate (easier) or vigorous (harder) for you is to do the “talk test." If you are able to chat and carry on a conversation, the level of your activity is moderately intense. If it is more difficult for you to have a conversation or say more than a few words before stopping to take a breath, the level of your activity is vigorously intense.

Always talk with your healthcare professional before beginning any exercise routine.

Ask about cardiac rehab

If you’ve had a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery, you may be a candidate for cardiac rehab. This is a medically supervised program designed to improve your cardiovascular health through exercise counseling and training, education about heart-healthy lifestyle changes, and counseling (to reduce stress). Read more and ask your healthcare professional if you’re eligible.