What level of physical activity should I do Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

What level of physical activity should I do?

Your cardiologist or specialist nurse should be able to give you specific advice on what level and type of exercise is safe for you. You should ask them for an exercise prescription. We have an exercise prescription form which they can use. If you have not yet received a physical activity recommendations form from your clinician, please print the three forms below and take them to your next appointment. You’ll have one copy to keep and one to give to your school. Your clinician will also be able to keep one on file.

Download and print your copies below 

During physical activity your muscles need more oxygen. The oxygen is absorbed from the air by the lungs and is then carried to the muscles in the blood. The harder your muscles are working the more oxygen they need, so you breathe faster and your heart works harder.

‘Intensity’ means how hard you are working during an activity. We can rate ‘intensity’ as low, moderate or vigorous.


  • No noticeable effect on breathing or heart rate.
  • It is easy to carry on a conversation or sing without pausing for breath.
  • Feels very easy and you could keep going for a long time.


  • Breathing and heart rate are faster. Feeling a little warmer.
  • You can carry on a conversation easily, but you can’t sing the words to a song without having to keep pausing to get your breath back.
  • Feels comfortable and you can keep going for a fairly long time.


  • Breathing much harder and faster.  Heart rate much faster. Feeling warm and sweating.
  • You can’t talk easily, because you have to keep pausing for breath.
  • Feels very hard and you cannot keep going for very long.
Some people with a congenital heart condition can safely take part in sports and exercise at a vigorous intensity.
However, some heart conditions limit the intensity of physical activity that should be undertaken.
For these people, being physically active at too high an intensity could:
  • Make them feel unwell
  • Cause dizziness or fainting
  • Make their heart condition worse

It is worth noting that even 60 minutes of brisk walking is effective exercise from a cardiovascular standpoint. If you are unable to do vigorous activity, doing this 60 minutes regularly is important, and has many health benefits.

Last Updated: September 8, 2016