Heart Disease and Exercise

Heart Disease and ExerciseTypically, lifestyle modifications serve as the first line of defense your doctor will recommend as a way to combat and reduce current diagnosed medical conditions and risk factors. Risk factors can be classified into two: Non-Modifiable and modifiable.

  • Non-Modifiable Risk Factors: These are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing a particular disease. Examples include: family history, age, gender, race, etc.
  • Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes. Examples include: smoking, alcohol consumption, dieting habits, exercise, etc.

For example, being physically active is one of the most important actions that people of all ages can take to improve their health. It is also important to note, that less than 60 percent of Americans are regularly active and 25 percent report they are not active at all. Yet exercise may be the most important factor to consider in the promotion of cardiovascular health. A moderate amount of activity performed three to five days per week can:

  • Reduce the risk of dying from heart disease
  • Help your heart and cardiovascular system work more efficiently
  • Decrease symptoms of angina (chest pain) and heart failure
  • Reduce risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Improve blood lipids (cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides)
  • Control weight and reduce body fat

Please note: Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. The general information included in this page is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your doctor. Consult with your doctor to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your doctor.

For those individuals who have been cleared to start an exercise program, please be sure to continue to check in with your doctor and share any updates regarding changes in worsening health condition, medications, etc. And remember, do not alter anything within your exercise program prior to checking and getting the approval of your doctor.

For those individuals looking to improve upon their overall health, RWJBarnabas Health offers a 12-week risk factor modification program. To learn more, please visit “RWJBH Health and Wellness.” We also offer Wellness events throughout the year — including exercise programs — designed to keep you healthy.

Request an Appointment

What are the Different Types of Exercise?

Exercise can be divided into three basic types:

Aerobic Activity: In this kind of physical activity, the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time. Examples include: Brisk walking, running, bicycling, jumping rope, and swimming. Aerobic activity causes a person’s heart to beat faster, and they will breathe harder than normal.

  • Intensity: It encompasses how hard a person works to do the activity. Intensity level is mostly classified as moderate (i.e. brisk walking) and vigorous (i.e. running or jogging).
  • Frequency: It encompasses how often a person does aerobic activity.
  • Duration: The length of the activity in any one session.

Heart Disease and ExerciseMuscle-Strengthening: This kind of activity, which includes resistance training and weight lifting, causes the body’s muscles to work or hold against an applied force or weight. These activities often include weights, however, elastic bands or body weight can also be used.

Muscle-Strengthening activity has three components:

  • Intensity: It encompasses how hard a person works to do the activity. The amount of weight or force as relative to the person’s ability to lift.
  • Frequency, or how often a person does muscle-strengthening activity.
  • Sets and repetitions, or how many times a person does the muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting a weight or doing a push-up (comparable to duration for aerobic activity).

Heart Disease and ExerciseFlexibility Activities: These kinds of activities enhance the ability of a joint to move through the full range of motion. Stretching exercises are effective in increasing flexibility, and thereby can allow people to more easily do activities that require greater flexibility.

How Often Should I Exercise?

In general, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Initially, exercising every other day will help you start a regular aerobic exercise schedule. The American Heart Association recommends working up to exercising on most days of the week. While the more exercise you can do the better, any amount of exercise is beneficial to your health.

What Should I Include in an Exercise Program?

An exercise program is made up of three phases. To avoid injury and problems, please include all three phases in your exercise session.

Heart Disease and Exercise1. The Warm-Up: This phase helps you move from rest to activity. The warm-up helps to slowly increase breathing, heart rate and body temperature. It also helps to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The warm-up should last about 5 minutes and may include:

  • Stretching exercises.
  • Range of motion activities.
  • Your exercise activity at a very low intensity (for example, walking at a very slow pace).

Heart Disease and Exercise2. Conditioning: This phase follows the warm-up and provides you with the benefits of exercise. For the best results, remember these important points in your Conditioning Phase:

  • Frequency: How often you need to exercise.
  • Intensity – How vigorous you need to exercise. It should be enough to get your heart rate and breathing to increase.
  • Duration – How long you need to exercise.
    • 30 to 40 minutes of continuous exercise OR 10 minute increments to equal 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day.
    • Your weekly time should total 150-200 minutes in the conditioning phase.

Heart Disease and Exercise3. Cool-Down: This last phase allows your body to recover from the conditioning phase. Heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-Down does not mean sit down! In fact you should not stand still, sit or lie down right after exercise. The cool-down should last 5 minutes and many include:

  • Slowly decrease the intensity of your activity.
  • Perform the stretching and range of motion exercises from your warm-up phase.

*Stop exercising right away and call 911 if you experience chest pain or discomfort, are short of breath even when you stop exercising/exerting yourself, have dizziness or nausea, or if you notice your heart racing or “skipping a beat.”

What are the Different Components of an Exercise Program?

There are several components that make up an exercise program. The acronym FITT can be an easy way to remember such.

  • Frequency – How many days per week you exercise. It is recommended that you exercise 3 to 5 days per week.
  • Intensity – How hard you need to exercise. The most ideal way to determine your exercise intensity is by using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. This scale was developed so people can rate how hard they work during exercise. *Please see below for a more detailed explanation about the RPE scale.
  • Time – How long you exercise. It is recommended that you exercise a total of 150 minutes per week.
  • Type – Type of exercise you choose to do. Examples include: Walking, cycling, swimming, baseball, weight lifting, calisthenics, and gymnastics.

What Is the Rated Perceived Exertion Scale?

The Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The RPE scale runs from 0-10. The numbers below relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair; 10 (very, very heavy) would be how you feel at the end of an exercise stress test or after a very difficult activity.

RPE Scale Measures:

0 = nothing at all

1 = very light

2 = light

3 = moderate

4 = somewhat heavy

5-6 = heavy

7-9 = very heavy

10 = very, very heavy

In most cases, you should exercise at a level that feels 3 (moderate) to 4 (somewhat heavy). When using this rating scale, remember to include feelings of shortness of breath, as well as how tired you feel in your legs and overall.

How Can I Avoid Overdoing Exercise?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Gradually increase your activity level, especially if you have not been exercising regularly.
  • Wait at least one and a half hours after eating a meal before exercising.
  • When drinking liquids during exercise, remember to follow your fluid restriction guidelines.
  • Take time to include a five-minute warm-up, including stretching exercises, before any aerobic activity and include a five- to 10-minute cool-down after the activity. Stretching can be done while standing or sitting.
  • Exercise at a steady pace. Keep a pace that allows you to still talk during the activity.
  • Keep an exercise record.

Patient Stories

  • “I could not believe it when I received the call on a Sunday afternoon,” said Ian. “The nurses and doctors that took care of me before, during and post-surgery are unbelievable."

    Read More
  • “That medical staff in the ICU was amazing – they definitely went above and beyond.”

    Read More
  • "I can’t say enough about the RWJBarnabas Health nursing teams. They work hard, are caring and compassionate and I appreciated them through this entire process."

    Read More

Patient Stories

  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
Medical Specialty Services at Bayonne
16 East 29th Street
Bayonne, NJ 07002
(973) 926-7280
Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center
200 South Orange Avenue
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-7000
Heart and Lung Specialty Center at Toms River
780 Route 37
Suite 120
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 341-2308
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group at Princeton
800 Bunn Drive
Suite 303
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 688-6859
Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
Belleville, NJ 07109
(973) 450-2000
Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at RWJUH
200 Somerset Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200
Trinitas Regional Medical Center – Williamson Street Campus
225 Williamson St
Elizabeth, NJ 07202
(908) 994-5000
Jersey City Medical Center Vascular Testing Center
377 Jersey Avenue
Room 460
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 716-5810
The Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
300 2nd Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 923-7250
Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
375 Mount Pleasant Ave
Suite 301
West Orange, NJ 07052
(973) 322-6949
Community Medical Center Cardiac Imaging Center
401 Lacey Rd
Whiting, NJ 08759
(732) 716-1390
RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place
Hamilton, NJ 08690
(609) 586-7900
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
Cardiac Diagnostic Center at Jersey City
120 Franklin Street
Jersey City, NJ 07307
(201) 885-4758
Jersey City Medical Center Outpatient Services at Colony Plaza
414 Grand Street
Suite 14
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 616-0470
Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
600 River Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 363-1900
Children's Specialized Hospital Outpatient Center – Bayonne
519 Broadway
Bayonne, NJ 07002
(888) 244-5373
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group
18 Centre Drive
Clinical Academic Building (CAB)
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(609) 655-5178

Heart and Vascular Care Treatment & Care

offered at these locations in your neighborhood

View All Locations