How to exercise safely Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

How to exercise safely

You should ensure that there is an AED (automated external defibrillator) available in places you exercise reguarly; e.g. a gym. An AED is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try and restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. It is very unlikely to be needed but can be lifesaving. Defibrillators vary in price from around £1000 upwards depending on the make and model. There are charities that will help finance or raise money for an AED, e.g. SADS UK. 

We recommend obtaining an up to date personalised Exercise Prescription Form, completed by your cardiologist/nurse specialist/specialist physio. This form describes the types of activities that you can participate in, and at what intensity. If you have not already been given one of these forms, you can download and print a blank copy below, and ask your cardiologist, nurse specialist or specialist physio to complete it for you. 

It’s important to follow these simple rules:

  • Wear loose comfortable clothing and supportive, non-slip shoes
  • Avoid drinking caffeinated energy/stimulant drinks (e.g. Monster, Red Bull), as these can bring on potentially dangerous arrhythmias. 
  • If you are diabetic, monitor your blood sugar and have a starchy carbohydrate snack with you
  • Wait at least one hour after a meal before exercising
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise
  • If you are prescribed glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) or inhalers, have those close at hand
  • Always ‘warm up’ before and ‘cool down’ afterwards
  • If you feel abnormally tired or unwell, do not exercise that day
  • If you stop exercising for any reason (e.g. you have a cold or the flu) when you start exercising again, start at a reduced level and gradually build up.
  • In cold weather, walk at a slower pace and dress warmly as the heart has to work harder under these conditions.
  • Remember every day is different. Some days you’ll have more energy and be able to go further than other days. Listen to your body, think positively and assess your progress over a week rather than a day
  • Keep your legs or toes moving when you are standing during activities
  • Try to include exercise into your daily activities (for example walk to the local shops rather than use the car). Involve your friends and family to make activities fun and social
  • Choose physical activity you enjoy doing so that is becomes a regular part of your life

Warming up and cooling down

You should always thinking of any activity you are doing as a three part process. Warming up and cooling down are just as important as the main activity itself.

Why warm up?

  • Prepares the heart for increased activity
  • Ensures the heart has a good supply of oxygen
  • Mobilises the joints that will be used in exercise by slowly increasing their range of movement

Guide to warming up

  • Your warm up should include pulse-raising activity and general mobility.
  • Hold onto a stable surface for support if required
  • If you need to sit down continue the warm up in sitting position
  • Continue breathing as normal throughout – do not hold your breath

How to warm up

Toe/heel taps

Stand keeping your back straight and tap alternate toes out in front. Repeat 20 times

Stand keeping your back straight and tap alternate heels out in front

Shoulder rotation

Whilst walking on the spot, gently rotate shoulders forwards and backwards. Repeat 5 times

Single forward arm raise

Stand, keeping your back straight, raise one hand in front of you, lift your arm straight forward over your head. Repeat twice with each arm

Alternate knee raise

Stand with your feet hip distance apart, lift alternate knees and lift opposite arm to shoulder height. Repeat 10 times right and left.

Guide to cooling down

  • It’s important that you leave enough time at the end of your session to cool down properly.
  • The goal is to bring your body back to its resting state
  • Allow your pulse and breathing rates to gradually slow down and return to normal
  • Cooling down reduces the risk of fainting or dizziness

How to cool down

  • Walk around for about 4 minutes, gradually slowing down the pace
Last Updated: September 8, 2016