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Regular exercise has a significant impact on morbidity and mortality from coronary artery disease – fitter individuals have a 20 to 55 percent higher chance of surviving. A heart attack survivor who participates in a regular exercise program may lower the risk of a second heart attack as much as 78 percent. Even more importantly, regular exercise can improve many other risk factors. Exercise can help lower blood pressure, normalize blood lipids, control type 2 diabetes, and reduce body fat.

Routine Is the Key

While regular exercise can have a significant impact on the control of heart disease, starting and maintaining a regular exercise program requires motivation and persistence.

The important components of health-related fitness are:

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular strength and muscular endurance
  • Flexibility and joint range of motion
  • Body fat and lean body mass

While cardiovascular endurance may be the most important component for most people, each of the other areas can play a significant role in overall health and particularly in a person's functional ability. For example, lack of muscular strength and joint range of motion may greatly limit activities of daily living; regular exercise can help remove those limitations.

Types of Exercise

Aerobic exercises improve the ability of the heart and vascular system to transport oxygen to the active organs and tissues of the body. Aerobic exercises can include walking, jogging, swimming, rowing, cycling, hiking, cross-country-skiing, rope skipping, and vigorous dancing.

Exercises for muscular strength and muscular endurance include lifting weights or using rubber stretch bands for resistance. This "resistance training" increases both the overall strength and endurance of the specific muscles used in the training exercises. Increased strength and endurance enable you to successfully complete particular tasks with less fatigue.

Flexibility and joint range of motion is improved with a stretching routine for the various muscles and joints of both the upper and lower body.

Both a good aerobic workout and resistance training can have a significant impact on body fat and lean body mass. A low body fat and a higher lean body mass benefit your blood lipid values, blood pressure, and blood glucose control.

The Right Program for You

The specific type of exercise program you should undertake depends on your health, current fitness level, and exercise goals. Work with your doctor and other professionals to determine your personal goals and a safe. Here are some specific dos and don'ts:


  • Seek professional advice on equipment and training concepts
  • Develop a regular, scheduled exercise time
  • Find a partner or group for support
  • Set realistic short-term and long-term goals and remember that change takes time
  • Start slowly and progress gradually
  • Chose types of aerobic exercise you like and ones that your body tolerates without increased musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Complete an exercise with weights or rubber stretch bands for each of the major muscle groups of the legs, arms, back, and abdominals
  • Alternate aerobic exercises on a regular basis if possible to prevent boredom and nagging overuse injuries
  • Decrease your caloric intake and increase daily activities if you want to lose weight
  • Drink adequate fluids (water or sports drinks) before, during, and after exercise
  • Contact your doctor if you have any chest discomfort, unusual shortness of breath, increasing fatigue, or musculoskeletal discomfort as you gradually increase or continue an exercise routine


  • Don't buy into "no pain, no gain" – stay in your "comfortable push" zone
  • Don't give up after the first few sessions if you are stiff, sore, and/or fatigued
  • Don't give up if you are frustrated that changes are going too slow