Why You Should Think Twice Before Doing Sit-Ups If You Have Heart Problems

We often associate exercise with healthy hearts — and to an extent, that makes sense. Staying active can stave off everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. If you have heart problems, however, not all movement is created equal, and there may even be some exercises to avoid.

The American Heart Association recommends fitting in at least 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of exercise per week. It's suggested to get a combination of aerobic activity (or exercise that gets your blood pumping) and strength training, using resistance and weights. Even just sitting less and moving your body more has been shown to counteract the risks of being too sedentary. Since a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to heart disease, exercise is important for reducing your risk, lowering blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscle, maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing inflammation, and reducing stress hormones, which burden the heart (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

The right kind of exercise is important

Is all exercise the same, especially if you already have heart problems? Not so much. If you currently suffer from heart disease, recommendations on exercise differ, and you should think twice before engaging in isometric exercises. These are exercises that involve straining muscles against other muscles (via National Jewish Health). Be sure to take precautions against these types of exercises, such as sit-ups.

However, exercise is still important, even if you have heart problems. Instead of grueling sit-ups or push-ups, you should start slowly with gentle aerobic activity three to four times per week, such as walking, swimming, or light jogging (via MedlinePlus). Be sure to stretch first to warm up, and have a cool-down period in the end. Take a break if you're feeling tired, and stop altogether if you have any heart symptoms. Make a plan with your doctor before beginning any new regimen, especially if you've recently had a heart attack, have chest pain or pressure, have diabetes, or have recently had heart surgery.