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Physical Activity

Why be active?

Step 1: Becoming active

Step 2: Improving your fitness

What to do if you get chest pain during activity

Why be active

Not doing enough physical activity doubles the risk of developing coronary heart disease and is also a major risk factor for stroke. Even if you have already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, there are still many benefits to becoming more physically active:

  • You'll feel more relaxed
  • It's a good way to socialise
  • You'll have more energy
  • You'll improve your cardiovascular fitness - daily tasks (e.g. housework, walking) will become easier
  • It can reduce your risk of having a heart attack (or another one)
  • It reduces the risk of developing other health problems, e.g. Diabetes
  • It helps lower cholesterol
  • It helps lower blood pressure
  • It burns calories to help lose weight
  • It boosts bone strength

If you have heart disease, you should always check with your doctor, practice nurse or cardiac rehabilitation team before you begin a programme of activity.

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Step 1: Becoming active

A little physical activity is better than none, especially if you haven't been active for a while.  A small amount of moderate activity on all or most days of the week will help to improve your health.  Walking or becoming more active around the house is a good place to start.

Activity should never be painful.  Activities that make you warm and slightly out of breath are enough.  Stick to a comfortable pace -  you should be able to chat.

Small steps to  become more active

  • Start gradually.  Don't do too much too soon.  5 minutes here, 10 minutes there to start with
  • Make active choices in your daily routine –  get off the bus a stop early, park further away and walk a bit, take the stairs instead of a lift 
  • Walk to the shops
  • Walk the dog
  • Try some gardening
  • Play with your children or grandchildren 
  • Do activities you enjoy- you're more likely to keep going

When you are doing activity remember:

  • Activity should not hurt 
  • Stick to a comfortable pace - you should be able to chat
  • Exercise within the limits of your angina or breathlessness 
  • Avoid exercising in extremely cold weather
  • Never try to walk through chest pain 
  • Try not to "over-do-it" on the days you feel energetic

Once you are into the swing of things try to increase the number of active periods you have each day
Aim to gradually build around 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most days of the week.   This can be done all at once or in smaller blocks of around 10 minutes.

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Step 2: Improving your fitness

Once you are comfortably managing to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most days of the week you may wish to start thinking about introducing more structured activity to your routine such as going for a swim, doing an exercise class or joining your local gym. Remember if you are new to exercise contact your doctor, practice nurse or cardiac rehabilitation team. They will be able to give you advice on what services are available locally. Start with one new activity you think you might enjoy.  If you have never done this type of activity before going along with friends or family can make it feel less daunting. Once you feel comfortable and confident with your new activity try to build up to 2-3 exercise sessions a week. Remember your activity should make you feel slightly out of breath and warm but you should still be able to chat.   

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What to do if you get chest pain during activity

  • Stop the activity and rest
  • If the feeling lasts more that about one minute take one tablet or one puff of your GTN under your tongue 
  • Tell your doctor or nurse next time you see them.  They might adjust your regular medicines to try to stop it happening again 
  • You may find that taking your GTN before exercise will stop your angina coming on.  Further information on GTNs can be found in the medications section 

If you want help and advice about getting more active ask your GP or Practice Nurse to send you along to the Live Active exercise referral scheme.  You may be sent for a treadmill exercise ECG test at the hospital if you have not had one within the last 6 months.  Once you have completed the test, and if the scheme is appropriate for you, an appointment will be made for you to see a Live Active exercise counselor at your local leisure centre.  You will receive individual advice on how you can become more active.
You can do any activity you like such as – swimming, gym sessions, exercise classes, walking, dancing or home based activities. You will also receive a reduced price to access leisure centres and there classes for up to 1 year.

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