Getting Fit in 2017

Caregiver excerciseWalking is Great Exercise for Patients with Pulmonary Hypertension

With the holiday season behind us, many of us have acquired a few pounds that we would like to shed.  January is a great time of the year to embark on a healthy lifestyle.  We will begin a series of articles that focus on this topic.

Walk Your Way To Better Health

Staying active is a core aspect of a healthy lifestyle.  This does not mean that everyone has to train for a marathon year round.  Patients with heart and lung disease need to have more modest expectations.  Nonetheless, having pulmonary hypertension should not prevent most people from exercising.  Walking is the best exercise.  For patients that are not limited by joint pain, walking is ideal.  First, it requires no special equipment or training.  Second, it will pay direct dividends to your quality of life.  Multiple articles have shown that patients that participate in an exercise program (such as walking) feel better, can do more and even have less depression.

Remember to start slowly and build gradually.  Depending on your baseline level of fitness, you may need to start with a five minute walk followed by a five minute break and then repeat the walk.  Each week you may add one minute to each leg of your walk.  The best pace at which to walk depends on your level of fitness and how severe your pulmonary hypertension is.  If you are in better shape, 2.5 miles per hour might be an easy pace but if you have more advanced disease this may feel like a sprint.

A good rule of thumb is that when you are exercising you should expect your heart rate to increase and your breathing rate to increase.  If you can carry on a leisurely conversation while exercising then you are not pushing yourself enough.  If you feel light headed or experience chest pain then stop immediately and rest.  30 minutes of walking time daily is a great target.  Bring a friend and find more motivation in company.  Or even better, bring your dog.  Your four legged friend will love you for exercise!  If you need oxygen, then be sure to use your oxygen when you are exercising.

What if you live in North Dakota and the weather is so cold that the mere thought of being outside causes icicles to form on your nose?  No problem, find an indoor location such as a mall or large store and get walking.  Malls are a great option, as there are plenty of benches on which to catch a rest.  Most malls open before the stores do and you will probably find that you are not alone on the walking circuit.  And if you live in Phoenix during the summer where the asphalt is so hot that your walking shoes will melt?  Same solution, find an indoor mall or large store and get walking.

There are alternatives for patients that are unable to walk.  Exercise in a heated pool.  Aqua-aerobics or swimming is a great non-impact option.  If you need oxygen when you exercise just run your tubing from the side of the pool.   If walking and water activities are not your speed then chair aerobics are yet another possibility.