Exercise can be very helpful in prevention and rehabilitation of cardiac disorders and disease. With an individually designed exercise program set at a level considered safe for that individual, people with symptoms of heart failure can substantially improve their fitness levels. The greatest benefit occurs as muscles improve the efficiency of their oxygen use, which reduces the need for the heart to pump as much blood. While such exercise doesn't appear to improve the condition of the heart itself, the increased fitness level reduces the total workload of the heart. The related increase in endurance should also translate into a generally more active lifestyle. Endurance or aerobic routines, such as running, brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, increase the strength and efficiency of the muscles of the heart.
A physical examination by a physician is important to determine if strenuous exercise is appropriate or detrimental for an individual. Prior to the exercise program, proper stretching is important to prevent the possibility of soft tissue injury resulting from tight muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other joint-related structures.
Proper cool down after exercise is important in reducing the occurrence of painful muscle spasms. It has been documented that proper cool down may also decrease frequency and intensity of muscle stiffness the day following any exercise program.
Improper warm up can lead to muscle strains. Overexertion with not enough time between exercise sessions to recuperate can also lead to muscle strains, resulting in inactivity due to pain. Stress fractures are also a possibility if activities are strenuous over long periods of time without proper rest. Although exercise is safe for the majority of children and adults, there is still a need for further studies to identify potential risks.
L. Fleming Fallon Jr., MD, DrPH, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,