Exercise, not rest, best for heart after attack

By Staff Writer • Published: February 13th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The best cure for a broken heart is a busy schedule, and it turns out the same is true after a heart attack.

The latest study from the University of Alberta found that contrary to prior belief, exercise, not rest, soon after a heart attack will help your ticker get back on the right track.

Scientists reviewed more than twenty years of trials and found that stable patients who have suffered heart attacks recovered faster when they started an exercise program one week after the heart attack. The results run contrary to the traditional advice to rest a hurt heart for a month, followed by just three months of light exercise.

But the sooner the exercise happens the better. The study found that patients who began an exercise routine one week after their heart attack had the best heart performance. On the other hand, for every week patients delayed starting an exercise program, they would have to train longer to get similar benefits.

The scientists suggested at least six months of exercise as the most beneficial rehabilitation.

Past studies have found similar evidence that a heart needs work, not a break after an episode. A Swiss study published in Circulation found that heart attack survivors had improvements in their blood vessels’ ability to contract and relax if they biked, did circuit training or followed a combination of aerobics and weight training.

The group who did not exercise at all for four weeks saw no improvement in the function of these blood vessels, and in some cases function regressed.

So even though hitting the gym after your heart has hit a rough patch might seem nonsensical, it is the best bet in both preventing and recovering from a heart attack, after consulting your doctor first, of course. Even if you’re feeling a little lazy, your heart wants to work.