How to Exercise Safely After Angioplasty

Three Parts:Exercising Immediately After an AngioplastyFinding a Safe Exercise Routine Long-TermIncorporating Safe Exercises After an Angioplasty

When plaque begins to block blood flow to your heart, you have an increased risk for chest pain, heart attacks and other cardiac events. An angioplasty (a fairly minor cardiac procedure) can help improve the blood flow to the heart. After this procedure, it's essential to begin a heart-healthy lifestyle. Exercising after this procedure is generally an important part of your long-term recovery.[1] But be safe and smart when it comes to the type, amount and intensities of the exercises you choose. That way, you can allow your body to heal and work to prevent further cardiac issues.

Part 1
Exercising Immediately After an Angioplasty

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    Get a medical clearance from your doctor. The time immediately following your angioplasty will require you to follow specific exercise guidelines. Always follow exactly what your physician has recommended.
    • When you leave the hospital from your angioplasty (you usually spend the night), you physician will give you discharge papers that will explain exactly what type of physical activity you can and cannot do.
    • Read over these instructions thoroughly and make sure to discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
    • Also ask when your physician will give you a written or verbal clearance for activity. Get a general idea in your head of when that will be.
    • Once a clearance is given, you're generally allowed to proceed with most types of aerobic and resistance training.
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    Rest for a minimum of 1-2 days after your procedure. Although an angioplasty is considered a minor cardiac procedure, it still requires an overnight stay in the hospital and a period of rest afterwards.[2]
    • Although every physician is slightly different in their recommendations, most ask that you remain inactive for 1-2 days after your angioplasty.
    • This means no heavy lifting, not aerobic activity, or any activity that would require you to raise your heart rate significantly.
    • Normal, day-to-day activities are appropriate for the most part. Be careful with activities like carrying in heavy groceries, cleaning, gardening, etc that would be of a higher intensity.
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    Discuss the benefits of starting with a cardiac rehab program. After your few days of low activity, consider joining or starting with a cardiac rehab program. This should be something you discuss with your physician or cardiologist.
    • A cardiac rehab program is designed specifically for those patients that currently have or have had a history of cardiac events (like an angioplasty or heart attack).[3]
    • Cardiac rehab programs are best for patients that have had significant blockage, have had previous cardiac events (like a heart attack or angina) or are not currently in shape.
    • The purpose of these rehab programs is to educate you on how to exercise safely and work with you to build up your aerobic endurance over time.
    • There is a fitness professional and cardiologist that will supervise you and your heart as you exercise. In addition, most cardiac rehab programs are covered by your health insurance plan.
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    Start with lifestyle activity first. If you're not going to choose to do a cardiac rehab program, you will be able to start activity by yourself. A great place to start is bumping up your lifestyle activity.
    • Lifestyle activities (or baseline activities) are those exercises that are a part of your normal daily routine. These are the activities that get you "up and moving."[4]
    • For example, taking the stairs, parking farther away, grocery shopping, gardening, etc are all activities that will get you up, moving and increase your heart rate.
    • When you first get home from your angioplasty, you'll probably be limited on your overall activity. Instead of starting with more structured exercise, slowly build endurance with these types of lifestyle activities.
    • Make it a point to take more steps, stand up more often or just move more in general. This will help build a baseline endurance and fitness level you can build off of in the future.
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    Bring a friend or family member with you. A smart and safe option is to have a friend, co-worker or family member with you when you initially begin exercising.
    • In general, most patients are fine to exercise and will be fine while exercising after their angioplasty.
    • However, it might be smart to take someone with you. In case you feel light headed, dizzy or do have chest pains, they can assist you if needed.[5]
    • Also, don't go too far from your home or office. Stick around close if you need to get help, get to a phone or just need to get inside.

Part 2
Finding a Safe Exercise Routine Long-Term

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    Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercises. Many health professionals recommend that healthy adults aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. As long as you're cleared by your physician, you should be aiming for this amount after your angioplasty as well.[6]
    • 150 minutes is not a goal that you need to meet immediately. You may only be able to meet this goal after a few weeks or months in a cardiac rehab program.
    • It's recommended that you aim to do moderate intensity aerobic activity. This level has been shown to reduce hospital readmission and fewer long-term symptoms compared to those that didn't exercise at a moderate intensity.[7]
    • Try activities like walking, slow jogging, biking, swimming, hiking or dancing.
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    Include 1-2 days of weight training. After you've gotten comfortable with aerobic exercise, start thinking about including some weight training. This will complement your cardiovascular training.
    • Health professionals recommend that healthy adults, even those with cardiac problems, aim for 1-2 days of strength or resistance training. Do not do weight training two days in a row. Separate them by at least 24 hours.
    • Aim to workout for about 20 minutes total in length. Include a series of exercises so that each major muscle group is worked.
    • Note that if you do have some chest pains or did previously, overhead exercises (like shoulder presses) may make you have some chest pains or feelings of tightness. Avoid these if they are bothersome or produce symptoms.[8]
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    Be mindful of more extreme weather conditions. Although most exercises in general will be safe for you after your angioplasty, some physicians recommend staying indoors when there is more extreme weather.
    • Some weather conditions, like overly hot, humid or very cold days can produce symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing or chest tightness.[9]
    • It's recommended to workout or exercise indoors if the temperature is below 20 F (-6 C).
    • Also stay indoors if the humidity is above 75% or the temperature in general is above 80 F (26.6 C).
    • Keep an eye on the weather. Note which days have very hot or cold temperatures and make plans to be safe and stay indoors instead.
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    Be mindful of side effects or symptoms during activity. Usually, an angioplasty will help relieve cardiac-related symptoms (like chest pain). However, you still need to be mindful of how you're feeling during and after activity.[10] Stop exercising and call your doctor if you experience:
    • Chest pain
    • Chest tightness
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing
    • Dizziness or light-headedness
    • Heart palpitations
    • Discomfort in your jaw, arm, shoulder, back or stomach
    • Nausea
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    Check in with your doctor regularly. After your angioplasty, it'll be recommended that you follow up with your doctor regularly. This is important to do and will help you continue to communicate with your physician about your progress.
    • If you want to advance your activity by increasing the intensity or time, call your doctor to discuss this.
    • If you're having difficulty making progress with exercise, call your physician and see if they have any recommendations for you.
    • Definitely check in with your cardiologist if you've experienced any side effects, symptoms or other issues.

Part 3
Incorporating Safe Exercises After an Angioplasty

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    Start with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. One essential type and part of your exercise routine is your warm-up and your cool-down. Include both after you've had an angioplasty.
    • Even though a warm-up and a cool-down aren't a specific type of exercise, they are a specific component to safe exercise after any type of cardiac procedure.[11]
    • A warm-up should be about 5-10 minutes long. Choose a very low intensity, low impact exercise. For example, a slow walk on the treadmill.
    • The goal of the warm-up is to help your heart rate slowly increase and to get your muscles warm and loose.
    • A cool-down is very similar to a warm-up. It should also be about 5-10 minutes in length and be a low intensity, slower paced exercise. Again, walking would work.
    • The cool down allows your heart rate and blood pressure return to more normal levels without a quick drop in your activity.
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    Incorporate a 30 minute walk most days. One very safe and frequently recommended exercise is a 30 minute walk. This is a great exercise for most angioplasty patients to start with.
    • Studies have shown that one of the best exercises to start with is walking. Aim for a 30 minute walk most days of the week.[12]
    • If you currently cannot walk for 30 minutes, this should be your first exercise-related goal.
    • Since walking is a low intensity and low impact exercise, you can do this most if not all days of the week.
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    Try other aerobic exercises like jogging, biking or swimming. If you've got the 30 minute walk down and want to try other types of aerobic activity, try some of the following:
    • Jogging. While this might sound like an exercise that raises your heart rate too high, it is a type of cardio exercise that you can work towards over time. Jogging burns more calories than running and works your heart harder. This helps build better aerobic fitness.[13]
    • Swimming. This is another great cardio exercise. It involves your full body, but is easy on the joints and you can make it low intensity as needed. Plus, the water keeps your body cooler which keeps your heart rate lower.
    • Cycling. If jogging isn't your thing, try cycling. Like swimming, it's low impact and you can make the intensity lower if needed.
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    Do yoga. Since strength training is a good type of exercise to include along with cardio, you need to find ways to include this. Yoga is a great low impact exercise that can help strengthen without raising your heart rate high.
    • Yoga is a great exercise to get into after any health issue, but especially after a cardiac procedure like an angioplasty.
    • The great thing about yoga is that its good for strength training, but also trains your breathing and can help relax and de-stress which might be useful after having a cardiac procedure like an angioplasty.
    • Try to take a yoga class 1-2 times a week. Aim for a 45-60 minute session. If you haven't done yoga before, take a beginners class so you can keep your heart rate lower.


  • Regardless of your fitness level or fitness ability, you always need a full medical clearance before starting any type of exercise after an angioplasty.
  • Take it slow after your angioplasty. It can take time to get yourself into a good routine.
  • Remember, exercise is beneficial to your heart. So even if you don't feel up to it, doing something mild like a walk, can still improve your health.

Article Info

Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure | Cardio Exercises