After discussion with their cardiologist, most adults with congenital heart disease that is either mild or that has been corrected through surgery or interventional procedures will follow the same overall physical activity guidelines as adults without congenital heart disease. However, each individual is different, so it is important to discuss with your cardiologist the specifics of which physical activities are right for you.
Most people will want to strive for 30–45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise two to three times a week and participate in muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Your physician can help you determine if this target is right for you, and also help you choose appropriate activities and intensity levels. You may be advised to avoid activities that can cause extreme elevations in blood pressure, such as heavy weight lifting and sprinting-related exercises or impact sports or activities that carry a high risk of bleeding (especially if you are on medication that reduces your blood’s clotting ability).
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Physical Activity for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease
The following questions can help you talk to your physician. Print out or write down these questions, and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.
- What types of physical activities do you recommend for me?
- Are there activities that I should avoid?
- For how long should I exercise, and at what intensity?
- Are there warning signs that I should look for when engaged in physical activity?
- When should we evaluate if a new activity or an increase in intensity level is safe for me?
- Are there any tests or treatments that should be performed before I engage in physical activity?