Activity Guidelines After Cardiac Events

Regular physical activity is important during the early part of recovery after a cardiac event like a heart attack. Most people wonder how active they can be after they leave the hospital.

These recommendations can help you recover as quickly and as fully as possible. They are intended to get you started; many patients benefit from more vigorous activities as their health improves. These are general recommendations and shouldn't replace recommendations from your health care team.

What Activities Can You Do?

During your first week out of the hospital, begin with light activities like the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Preparing light meals
  • Washing dishes
  • Carrying less than 10 pounds
  • Going up and down one flight of stairs at a slow pace
  • Light cleaning (no vacuuming)
  • Short errands up to 30 minutes, as a passenger

You can do the following activities 1 to 2 weeks after leaving the hospital:

  • Going up and down more than one flight of stairs
  • Sexual intercourse in a passive position (no pressure on your arms or chest)
  • Light gardening
  • Scrubbing

Walking Program

Walking is a safe form of exercise that can help you regain your strength. When you exercise, your heart rate (pulse) shouldn't be more than 20 beats above your resting heart rate.

Walk on level ground at a comfortable pace. Don't exercise until at least 1 hour after eating.

Week 1: 15 minutes total per day in 1 to 3 sessions

Week 2: 20 minutes total per day in 1 to 3 sessions

Week 3: 30 minutes total per day in 1 to 3 sessions

You can walk longer if you feel OK, but don't get your heart rate higher than 20 beats above your resting rate.


If you have any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and call your health care team:

  • Extreme shortness of breath or tiredness
  • Dizziness or feeling faint with activity
  • Chest discomfort that begins during exercise and goes away with rest

You are doing too much if:

  • You feel extremely tired for several hours after you exercise
  • Your heart rate remains 10 to 20 beats above resting rate for 10 minutes or more

Clinical review by Art Resnick, MD
Kaiser Permanente
Reviewed 03/01/2014