July 4, 2011

Exercise For The Ailing Heart

exercise for the ailing heartIs There Exercise for the Ailing Heart?

The health and performance benefits of high intensity interval training are becoming increasingly better known.  But, now high intensity interval training can be considered exercise for the ailing heart.

An article published in the Wall Street Journal on June 28, 2011 reviews the potential benefits that high intensity interval training might have for those individuals with existing heart disease.  Though, still controversial using short bursts of intense activity may be a better choice of exercise for the ailing heart.

High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training (usually performed at 80% to 95% of maximum heart rate) is being used more and more by athletes to increase speed and endurance. High intensity interval training also boosts metabolism and stimulates release of growth hormone and testosterone better than steady pace aerobic exercises do.

Studies involving high intensity interval training in patients with heart disease suggest that it improves the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen.  Though protocols vary they typically involve first progressing with steady pace exercise over several weeks, and then gradually introducing short bursts of high intensity activities for typically 30 seconds and eventually up to as much as 120 seconds.


Not all patients are candidates for high intensity interval training especially those with recurrent angina (chest pain) and bone or joint problems.

Not all cardiac rehab specialists agree that high intensity interval training is safe for heart patients and certainly more studies are needed, but we do see a trend.   Whether we are talking about heart disease, or rehabilitation from an orthopedic injury, that the body seems to do better the more it does.  It was not too long ago, and many physicians today can still recall the days when heart attack victims were initially kept at bed rest for 6 weeks.

We do know that high intensity training leads to improvement in aerobic capacity and quality of life.  It also better maintains lean body mass and reduces blood pressure than steady pace aerobics.  So the fact that is does show promise in heart patients is not surprising.

If you have heart disease, before you embark on a high intensity interval training program, first discuss and be evaluated by your physician to see if such a program might be appropriate for you. Include heart exercises in your workout routine.

See related articles.

“Better Fitness, Better Chance of Avoiding Heart Disease”

“What are the Health Benefits of Exercise?”

10 Exercise Tips for Beginners”




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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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