The first few weeks at home
For the first few days at home you should take things easy, doing not much more than you were doing in hospital. You can introduce light activities such as washing up and preparing light meals. You may feel tired at this stage, so set time aside each day to rest or sleep. You may use the stairs as often as you need to.
Increasing your activity
After the first few days, you should gradually begin to increase your activity. Walking is an important part of your rehabilitation. Daily walking is recommended. Everyone is different, so you will need to progress at a rate that is right for you. A cardiac rehabilitation team member or ward nurse will discuss this in more detail with you before you go home.
Start with something easy, a few minutes walk at a pace that is comfortable for you. Do that for 2-3 days until you feel quite confident with it. Then increase your walking time slightly. Again stay at this level for 2-3 days and once you feel comfortable, increase your time again. It is important that you pace yourself. You will have good days and bad days. Avoid the temptation to see how much you can do on a good day.
You will only succeed in making yourself extremely tired for the next day or so.If you pace yourself and increase your activity gradually you will be able to do more in the long term.
Continue to increase your activity over the next few weeks. If you are unsure about how you are doing, contact your cardiac rehabilitation team for more advice.
What is too much activity?
You are working too hard if:
- You are too short of breath to say your telephone number including the area code, out loud without gasping. If this happens, slow down until you can say your telephone number without gasping.
- You become excessively tired. (Either during or some time after exercise / activity.)
- You have chest pain or discomfort (angina). Pacing yourself is the key to a successful recovery.
- Don’t exercise if you feel unwell, e.g. have a cold or flu.
- Wait at least an hour after a meal before you go for a walk.
- If extremely cold weather brings on symptoms of angina, you may have to avoid going outside at this stage on particularly cold days.
- In extremely hot weather you may tire more easily.
- Always remember to pace yourself.
If you do get chest pain
- Stop exercising but keep your leg muscles working by moving your feet
- Take 2 or 3 deep breaths
- If discomfort remains consider using GTN spray
Activities to avoid at the moment
Avoid heavy lifting for about three months after your cardiac event. That is any weight that is almost too heavy for you to pick up and which makes you hold your breath, e.g. for some people this may be lifting heavy washing, or carrying heavy shopping bags.
Avoid any activity that involves a short sharp effort that makes you grunt: e.g. shovelling snow, heavy digging, mowing the lawn, hoovering, pushing or tugging as hard as you can against an object, like pushing a wheelbarrow or moving heavy furniture. This won’t cause any damage to your heart but will leave you feeling tired. Remember your ability to return to these activities increases over time as you regain your fitness. When you do return to these activities remember to pace yourself.